How many different types of technology are you applying? Which includes, of course, the streets, but it also includes the parking areas. If you could just drop your car at the entrance of a parking place and it just gets in and you pack all the cars together without any streets in-between, you would reduce the area which I think is a great thing. And to find out where we can generate some value. Like traffic jams as I said, or parking in a parking spot in the morning. Earlier this year, Google was forced to alter   the design for its fleet of autonomous cars after California changed its road rules, requiring all vehicles to have a steering wheel. Müller said that off-road driving would be “difficult” to achieve, as autonomous vehicle technologies rely on   recognition of road lights, markings and signage to determine the car’s   position on the road. Thomas Müller: They wanted to put a fleet of Google cars on the road without anything, and the [DMV] said ‘no forget it’. Having the whole system of cars in this mixed scenario of intelligent and less intelligent cars working to increase the efficiency of the traffic – this would take some years. To just get into your place, put on the navigation system – maybe sit in the rear seat and the thing is driving you to somewhere – this will still take 20 to 30 years. “The logic in that is to try to understand the urban mobility of tomorrow. But one thing I think is clear: the US is ahead. You learn by driving what is a gravel road, where the borderline of a road is, and this is something that in the technical environment – self-learning machines – is still at the beginning. But he’s in command. Most people when they get into that situation – in front of a crash – they are so focused on the car still in front that they don’t react. “It’s not going to be that next Monday everything is there and is working, because technology needs to be developed, regulation needs to be developed, infrastructure needs to be developed.”
“And the most important thing is the customer. Where do we have to focus on if we’re building this technology soon? They can just start working on their laws, and they’re doing that already. All of them doing 45-60 miles an hour. The cars use a combination of military-grade GPS, images captured by an array of cameras, which   the car compares to a bank of images previously captured on the same stretch of road, and   a “path finding” algorithm   to help plot   the best route for each lap. The US could be the first country where you could have the first piloted functionalities on the road. And on top of that comes driver assistance systems, piloted driving, which are the functionalities where we say we want to help the driver – to avoid accidents.”
Design studio Kram/Weisshaar worked with Audi for the first passenger trips of the RS 7   driverless concept cars, designing an in-car film studio to capture passenger reactions. We want to have our cars be something very emotional. But it’s still very regional, which makes it more difficult. He needs to have pleasure and say ‘Yeah, that’s me, this is part of my body’. Do you have a clear lane? So you use the engine, the steering system, the breaking. It’s difficult to say when it’s going to happen. What’s the logic in that? Today you can test, but you cannot sell this technology. That would be much faster. So if he wants to drive he will drive. Planning, analysing, positioning –   where am I? Which includes, of course, the streets, but it also includes the parking areas. First of all we have our pre-development activities that we want to take to serious production. If it’s a city, we call it level four. Anna Winston: In terms of legislation, how far away are we from being able to use a lot of this functionality on public roads? Thomas Müller: We focus on two things. Anna Winston: California is changing its regulations to insist that all vehicles have steering wheels and brake pedals. Anna Winston: So there isn’t a plan to go fully autonomous as a business strategy? And then we took the same algorithm that we had in the car that we drove up the Pikes Peak three years ago autonomously but at low speed. Even if it’s just a traffic jam pilot or something like that, you cannot put it in a car because someone cannot buy it. There are millions of possibilities to comb through and there is some intelligence behind that – assuming what is the best way to go through and at which speed. There are two kinds of cars. That’s the first reason someone gets into a dealership. We want to support him in situations where he doesn’t have this pleasure of driving. People buy the cars because they look good. My wife wouldn’t get in a car that doesn’t have anything. We have a radio control system taking care of the car. If every car was intelligent and every car was talking to each other and every car would be… Anna Winston: How long would it take to make a car that could drive autonomously on a real road? If you have algorithms that can learn as they go – robots or cars or whatever – then you could get a lot of what human beings have and then eventually, some day, gravel roads will also be possible. People driving old cars in the middle of cars that are more intelligent and highly autonomous – this would be a mess. And on top of that comes driver assistance systems, piloted driving, which are the functionalities where we say we want to help the driver – to avoid accidents. When we drive driverless we have spotters to switch off the car if we have someone running across the street. This is not our strategic goal,” said   Müller. Cities will take many many years still to be able to do that. “Driving pleasure issues – this is something that we focus on. But legal variations around the world and a lack of trust from customers are still barriers in   bringing   driverless cars onto the market, according to Müller. like airplanes. Thomas Müller:   A lot of activity is happening in Europe, happening in the US, some starting in China. “This is something that in the technical environment – self-learning machines – is still at the beginning.”
This year has seen a flurry of proposals for   autonomous   vehicles, including a self-driving truck by Mercedes-Benz, a Tesla car that can be “summoned” by its owner, and a concept for office pods that can travel to workers, removing the need to commute. I think it’s feasible that it will happen in this decade. News:   autonomous vehicles in   urban areas could be up to thirty years away, according to   Audi’s Thomas Müller, the engineer leading the development of the brand’s driverless sports car (+ interview). Thomas Müller: The logic in that is try to understand the urban mobility of tomorrow. It’s not going to be that next Monday everything is there and is working, because technology needs to be developed, regulation needs to be developed, infrastructure needs to be developed. So a lot of safety things – to make sure that it works and that nothing happens. Thomas Müller: It’s very difficult because one thing that we need to drive autonomously is lights. The other one is marketing – showing competence, showing that we are ahead of piloted driving, and that we can manage these cars and that we’re having fun with you. But if you have simpler use cases like a traffic jam on a highway or parking, I think this could very well happen in this decade. Anna Winston: What about off-road driving? But it was very very tough. “We’re not following a strategy of having – some people call it robotaxi – this car driving empty through the city looking for customers. You drive one lap on the left side of the lane; one on the right side. Audi said it currently has no plans to sell driverless cars, but the technology it is developing will be used to offer drivers “piloted” options and to create   new safety features. Despite the hype about driverless vehicles,   Müller said it would “take 20 to 30 years” before they could co-exist with existing vehicles in cities. We have this kind of car that just takes you from A to B – which is unemotional. The biggest barrier in the end is that you have a mixture of non-intelligent and more intelligent cars. That’s quite fast. Thomas Müller: No. And I think the US has a huge potential – think about the highways. They’re all controlled by a system, and the human being is almost taken out of that system – he’s just monitoring the whole thing. Thomas Müller: If you’re talking about cities, this is very complex. Anna Winston: What is the point of projects like the Concept RS 7? You need to change lane very fast. Then you put in a localisation system –   because the car needs to know where it is –   which is basically done by GPS and cameras. She doesn’t trust it. She doesn’t trust it. So this is something that we’re working [on] also here. Related story: Coming soon: driverless trains, planes and automobilesHowever he predicted that technology   would take over from drivers in simpler   situations such as traffic jams and parking “in this decade.”
Thomas MüllerMüller   was speaking to Dezeen during the first public passenger event for Audi’s two Concept RS 7 cars, which can drive themselves   around a racetrack at speeds of up to 220 kilometres per hour.

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