- It can navigate automatically and has natural interaction with other drivers
- Autonomous cars can improve road safety and use of road infrastructure
- Its advanced navigation system is able to establish its own routes
- Sensors allow it calculate next manouevre depending on surroundings
Self-driving vehicles claim to reduce the risk of accidents and congestion by removing human unpredictability.
But one car manufacturer has been teaching its robotic vehicles to drive more like humans in an effort to make them safer on the roads.
Audi’s A7 sportback autonomous test vehicle – nicknamed Jack – drifts towards the road markings before signalling its intent to perform a lane-change manouevre.
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Audi’s new driverless car technology (pictured) is being taught to behave more like a human by moving closer to lane markings before signalling that it is about to change lanes and giving larger vehicles a wider bearth
The German car giant has found that this subtle movement is used by human drivers as an unconscious signal of intent before they even turn on the indicators.
Audi’s car also tends to give larger vehicles like trucks a wider berth when overtaking, much like human motorists.
When another vehicle wants to merge into its lane, the vehicle either speeds up or slows down to let them in.
Engineers behind the technology hope that it will help to ease the transition towards putting autonomous cars on the roads with human drivers.
There are concerns that robotic cars may perform manouevres too perfectly and suddenly, making their behaviour difficult for other road users to anticipate.
Audi have been performing tests on its technology on public roads (pictured). It hopes to begin testing car to infrastructure communication for its driverless technology by 2018
The A7 piloted driving concept (pictured) collects signals from its sensors at the front, side and rear of the car in real-time, which create a model of the car’s surroundings. The model shows the prevailing traffic situation and enables its assistance controller ‘zFAS’ to plan its next manouevres
Audi said its Jack piloted car technology, called zFAS, allowed the vehicle to drive more ‘naturally’.
A statement released by Audi said: ‘Jack exhibits a driving style that is adaptive to the given situation, safe and especially interactive – it is a research car with social competence.
‘The cooperative attitude of Jack is especially apparent when other vehicles want to merge into its lane on the motorway.
‘Here the test car decides – based on the selected driving profile – whether to accelerate or brake, depending on which is best suited to handling the traffic situation harmoniously for all road users.’
From inside the car, the driver will be able to monitor what is going on through the driver observation camera, which uses infrared lighting. They will also be able to decide whether or not they would like to drive manually or take their hands off the wheel completely
TRICKING SELF-DRIVING CARS USING ‘GHOST’ VEHICLES
A security researcher recently revealed how easy it is to fool the remote sensing technology on self-driving vehicles by proving it can be done using basic, off-the-shelf equipment.
During tests, researcher Jonathan Petit at the University of Cork said he was able to trick the sensors into seeing ‘echoes’ of cars or pedestrians from a distance of 330ft (100 metres) using a simple laser pointer.
These sensors, thinking there is an obstacle ahead, then take diversory actions to avoid it, or will stop if it can’t manoeuvre around it.
Mr Petit said: ‘It’s kind of a laser pointer, really. And you don’t need the pulse generator when you do the attack.’
Audi’s piloted driving is currently designed to take over the driving of the vehicle on specific types of road, such as highways, helping to ease the pressure on human motorists.
Sensors keep track of its surroundings and upcoming traffic, helping it to anticipate manouevres
In the future, Audi claims that cars and road infrastructure will communicate more intensively with one another, which it hopes to begin testing on real roads in 2018.
For example, information on variable-message traffic signs could be digitally transmitted into the car in order to minimise traffic.
In addition, Audi is testing car-to-surrounding communication which would enables self-driving cars to use hard-shoulders when these are temporarily opened.
Another step forward is car-to-car communication between automobiles that are travelling on the same routes.
They can report on hazardous points and accidents in real time.
The driving speeds of other road users operating with piloted driving are then automatically adjusted to the potential hazard.
The local infrastructure plays a special role for piloted driving on the motorway.
In addition to sensors in the car, signals from the environment give the driver a precise preview of the road ahead.
Pilot driving is something that the driver will be able to choose select within the car over manual driving. Audi insist they are not building ‘robot cars,’ and that they want to offer their customers a better experience when driving their cars
Audi said: ‘Piloted driving offers greater safety, more efficient utilisation of the transportation infrastructure and more relaxation time for the driver.
In the United States, Audi used a driverless TTS to etch its trademark four rings logo into the surface of a salt flat and navigated the legendary hill climb up Pikes Peak in the Rocky Mountains.
At the Hockenheim Motodrome Grand Prix track, a driverless Audi RS 7 Sportback was sent round at very high speeds, crossing the finish line in just over two minutes.
Since then, Audi has been demonstrating the next steps in piloted driving on public roads too, for example under real traffic conditions on American highways from the west coast to Las Vegas.
Audi is not the only company to have announced developments in the field of driverless cars.
Last month Volvo announced it will start trialling autonomous versions of its XC90 with the British public on London roads.
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