Audi unveiled its A7 driverless car concept at CES 2015 in style, with the vehicle having driven itself to the event in Las Vegas all the way from San Francisco.
The entire distance that was traveled by the A7 concept vehicle was over 550 miles, as several journalists and engineers took turns in climbing into the car to get an up close look at Audi's new technology.
The A7's drive from San Francisco to Las Vegas allowed Audi to collect important data to lead to the production of a self-driving car that Audi could release to the market. In addition, the feat of the A7 also demonstrated the viability of driverless cars as a means of transportation in the current road and traffic conditions of the country.
The A7 concept vehicle drove through California and Nevada, two states which have granted permission to several car manufacturers for the testing of self-driving vehicles in public roads.
The A7 can drive by itself at speeds below 70 miles per hour, with the ability to change lanes and pass slow vehicles in front. Before the car changes lanes, it adjusts its speed depending on the speed of the other vehicles around it. If the calculations of the vehicle's systems regarding speed and distance find a lane change to be a safe option, the car initiates the maneuver.
The vehicle relies on several sensors, with many of these sensors close to being ready for production. Among the sensors are the long-range radar sensors that are already used in the side-assist driving aids and cruise control technology of Audi, along with a pair of mid-range radar sensors that are able to take a 360-degree look around the vehicle.
The A7 also features laser scanners that are located in the vehicle's grille and rear bumper, which are tasked with delivering information for the car's system to recognize various objects on the road. The vehicle also has a high-res 3D video camera that is focused on what is in front of the A7, supported by four small cameras mounted in the car's front and rear. Lastly, navigation data is utilized for the basic orientation of the car.
All the data gathered by these systems are processed by the car's computer to allow the A7 to make adjustments to the steering wheel, transmission and brakes when needed. The driver, however, retains the ability to take control of the vehicle at any time.
However, the A7 is currently limited to only being able to drive itself within highways. As the vehicle enters complex environments, such as within a city, the driver is given several warning signals to take over control of the car for added safety.