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Transportation AI Technology

The Audi A8: First Production Car To Achieve Level 3 Autonomy (ieee.org) 375

schwit1 shares a report from IEEE Spectrum: The 2018 Audi A8, just unveiled in Barcelona, counts as the world's first production car to offer Level 3 autonomy. Level 3 means the driver needn't supervise things at all, so long as the car stays within guidelines. Here that involves driving no faster than 60 kilometers per hour (37 mph), which is why Audi calls the feature AI Traffic Jam Pilot. Go ahead, Audi's saying, read your newspaper or just zone out while traffic creeps along. To be sure, the A8 also monitors the driver, even while the traffic jam persists, and continues to do so as the speed edges up over the limit. If the driver falls asleep, it'll wake him up; if it can't get his attention, it will stop the car. If you want to buy the new A8, you'll have to check whether your jurisdiction will accept it as a Level 3 car. Audi said in a statement that it will follow "a step-by-step approach" to introducing the traffic jam pilot. It plans to sell the base model in Europe this fall for 90,600 euros, or about $103,000, and to enter the United States market shortly afterwards. A model having a longer wheelbase will cost a few percent more.
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The Audi A8: First Production Car To Achieve Level 3 Autonomy

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  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @08:59PM (#54797599) Journal

    ... the Germans will *still* order it with a manual transmission.

    Because you HAVE to have a manual transmission if you're a real driver.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 )

      Because you HAVE to have a manual transmission if you're a real driver.

      You say this like it's somehow untrue... :^D

    • Pretty sure they all have DSG boxes now.
    • The volume knobs go to 11!

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
      I would add the qualifier "a YOUNG" real driver". At my age I kind of like my automatic transmission, even though I drove manual for 30+ years.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @10:33PM (#54798057)

      Because you HAVE to have a manual transmission if you're a real driver.

      Up until the most modern DSG's this was a very true statement, automatics meant significant performance sacrifices where a real driver would considerably outperform the auto. Now a well tuned DSG can even outperform the best drivers on gear changes.

      • Because you HAVE to have a manual transmission if you're a real driver.

        Up until the most modern DSG's this was a very true statement, automatics meant significant performance sacrifices where a real driver would considerably outperform the auto.

        True for cars, but not for pickup trucks (big trucks with huge numbers of gears are a different story). There are significant advantages to having a torque converter over a clutch when starting a heavy load. As a result, pickups with automatic transmissions have higher rated towing capacities than the same model with a manual transmission. There are also a lot of advantages for off-road vehicles, where drivers may need to apply very precise amounts of power from a standing start and at low speeds.

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )

          There are also a lot of advantages for off-road vehicles, where drivers may need to apply very precise amounts of power from a standing start and at low speeds.

          Spot on. I used to have a tiny little Suzuki 4WD with a tiny little engine but in the right gear it could get all over the place.

        • by arth1 ( 260657 )

          Or driving on snow and ice. Being able to engine brake without the automatic upshifting at the worst possible moment is invaluable.
          Or even controlled skids with RWD cars, which require precise wheel speed.

          Modern double-clutch paddle shifters aren't too bad, except for in tight turns where you have to shift grip on the wheel and can't reach the paddle pointing down. Then it makes a lot more sense to keep one hand on top of the wheel and shift with the other.

        • PIckups have automatics because most americans can't use a manual transmission. And off road if you need to quickly apply power you want a direct clutch, not a slushy torque converter.

      • Up until the most modern DSG's this was a very true statement, automatics meant significant performance sacrifices where a real driver would considerably outperform the auto. Now a well tuned DSG can even outperform the best drivers on gear changes.

        Actually, good automatics can do that now, too. Let's see, what car review was I watching recently where the vehicle had a traditional slush box, but shifted quickly anyway? Ah yes, 2017 Lexus LC 500.

    • ... the Germans will *still* order it with a manual transmission.

      The Audi A8 has never been offered with a manual transmission, except under the S8 name, and even then only in the first generation and only in limited european markets (yes, Germany) and in very minimal quantity. Every other A8 has come with a slush box, either the ZF5HP19 if they are FWD, or the ZF5HP24A if they are AWD. Those few manual S8s came with the 6-speed 01E gearbox. You can also fit the 5-speed 01A.

      All new A8s which are not fully electric will be 48V mild hybrids, and feature slush boxes.

      • ....because the other thing the Germans are famous for?

        A complete lack of a sense of humor.

        • ....because the other thing the Germans are famous for?
          A complete lack of a sense of humor.

          Well, I'm an American, but since that means I'm a mutt, I can also be German. And I am partly, on my mother's side. I promise not to try to kill all the Jews.

  • having to deal with AI-driven cars with dozing drivers inside, as well as regular idiot drivers, when I commute with my bicycle. It may or may not be an improvement for cyclists...

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Will a city still allow a larger car with just one person? That might result in some congestion pricing and a luxury tax given it only has one occupant.

      Want to be driven into the city?
      Select from a city approved van or car service that will do the driving. It will pick up the user who sent an app request at a location.
      Along the way 5 or more random strangers will be collected to ensure the car or van is always been used and no seat is empty.
      Re "improvement for cyclists"
      Wait for a bike registration a
    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      having to deal with AI-driven cars with dozing drivers inside

      Sounds like a step up from the usual manually-driven cars with dozing drivers inside...

    • It may or may not be an improvement for cyclists...

      It will be, because the cars will actually do their best to follow the law. It will also be awesome for drivers, because the system will flag cyclists who interfere with traffic by themselves not following traffic laws, and report them to the police as a willful obstruction to self-driving automobiles.

  • I would like to see this car drive in San Francisco. Especially being in the middle lane at an intersection and the car in the right lane does a sudden and illegal left-hand turn when the light changes. I've ran into that a few time.
  • by Narcocide ( 102829 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @09:27PM (#54797749) Homepage

    At level 4 the car decides on it's own where to take you. At level 5 it gets bored waiting for you in the parking lot and decides to leave you to pursue it's own life as a career movie stunt car and part time Uber drone.

    • So it will achieve the dreams of a 16 year old male?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by PopeRatzo ( 965947 )

      At level 4 the car decides on it's own where to take you. At level 5 it gets bored waiting for you in the parking lot

      Level 6 is when it kills you and fucks your wife.

    • It's funny you mention the Uber drone part because I'll be holding out on autonomous cars until that is a reality. I'd love to be able to tell my car, "Hey, go buy me some beer" and it will be become an Uber whore until it makes enough fare to buy beer. I foresee entire new niche services popping up like liquor stores that will accept a remote ID card and "car stored credits" for the purchase of beer and just toss it in your autonomous car that will drive it back to you. It will be a glorious day for hum

  • Will this car have a manual transmission so the driver can take full control over his/her vehicle without having to rely on a computer?

    • Will this car have a manual transmission so the driver can take full control over his/her vehicle without having to rely on a computer?

      Guess what? The ZF9 already won't work without a computer. It doesn't have a limp-home mode that will work without any computer intervention. TCM dies, major sensor dies, you're waiting for a tow. Pretty sure ZF8 does limp, though. My antique ZF5HP42A limps, of course. It's an automatic.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @09:48PM (#54797833) Homepage

    Go ahead, Audi's saying, read your newspaper or just zone out while traffic creeps along. (...) If you want to buy the new A8, you'll have to check whether your jurisdiction will accept it as a Level 3 car.

    Does any jurisdiction accept any car as level 3? Because if the law will put you in the slammer for manslaughter and the insurance company refuse to cover your gross recklessness it's not exactly a feature.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      In the UK it would be illegal to read a newspaper while "in control of a vehicle" (i.e. sat in the driver's seat with it in motion). In fact the current requirement for antonymous vehicles is to keep your hands on the wheel and pretend to be driving so as not to alarm other road users.

      The law needs to change. I wonder what kind of liability Audi has here - presumably if there was an accident the insurance company would sue Audi on the driver's behalf if they had legal cover.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In Finland, driverless cars are completely legal.

      A startup recently asked the ministry of transport whether it could conduct trials of selfdriving busses on public roads. After a month of delay, the ministry replied something along the line of "We have thoroughly studied the law text, and find no passage which would require the presence of a driver. All you need to provide is a statement of which person is responsible for the car's behaviour on the road."

    • Does any jurisdiction accept any car as level 3? Because if the law will put you in the slammer for manslaughter and the insurance company refuse to cover your gross recklessness it's not exactly a feature.

      Not total level 3. I'm not sure I'd call Audi's limited L3 as L3, as it still requires a human to take you in and out of the limited scenario of use. There are already cars that completely handle parallel parking, so that is another limited form of L3. Audi has expanded it to stop and go traffic. This is logically an easy step to take, and frankly its one of the features I've been thinking would be nice to have. I'd like to see a move to what I would call 'follow cruise' where you lock onto a vehicle in fro

  • by rfengr ( 910026 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @10:02PM (#54797905)
    Does level 3 mean I can have it take me home while drunk, or will I still get a DWI?
    • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @11:00PM (#54798139)

      Does level 3 mean I can have it take me home while drunk

      You can... but you might regret it the next morning when you wake up and see it laying next to you.

    • Re:Can I ride drunk? (Score:5, Informative)

      by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @11:10PM (#54798195) Homepage Journal

      Does level 3 mean I can have it take me home while drunk, or will I still get a DWI?

      Nope.

      At level 3 a competent driver is still needed. In conditions the car can handle, the driver can ignore what's going on, relying on the car to tell the driver when to pay attention take over, but the car may decide that at any time and you have to be competent.

      At level 4 you could have it take you home while drunk, as long as the entire route is within the car's capabilities.

      At level 5 the car is as good as a human driver in every possible driving scenario, including dirt roads, etc.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        relying on the car to tell the driver when to pay attention take over

        I wonder how long you have to take over. If you are reading a newspaper as they suggest, it might take you several seconds to finish the paragraph, fold it up and store it safely before taking in your environment and figuring out what is required of you.

        The main problem I have with the Tesla system is that it suddenly starts beeping urgently at you, about 0.5 seconds before it hits something. If you were not paying full attention with hands on the wheel already, you are probably screwed.

        • by fisted ( 2295862 )

          it might take you several seconds to finish the paragraph, fold it up and store it safely

          People with OCD will likely not be allowed to drive it. The rest of the world is able to stop reading a newspaper without having to finish the fucking paragraph, folde it up and store it safely. It's called putting the newspaper down, or tossing it onto the passenger (seat).

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            My point was that you can't really relax and read the paper in traffic if you have to be constantly ready to throw it aside and grab the wheel, making sense of your situation to avoid an imminent crash.

        • If you are reading a newspaper as they suggest, it might take you several seconds to finish the paragraph

          Or if you're asleep, it might take you 30 seconds to figure out where you are and what's going on. I think this is a big deficiency in the definition of level 3, and one of the reasons I'm skeptical of level 3 systems. Tesla's level 2.5 is even worse... though they do have some pretty compelling data showing that their system, deficient though it might be, reduces accidents as compared with human drivers. A system doesn't actually have to be good to be viable, it just has to be better than people, and peopl

      • At level 4 you could have it take you home while drunk, as long as the entire route is within the car's capabilities.

        I am fairly certain that if it is possible for you to control the vehicle, regardless of the vehicles capabilities, you will still be given a DUI/DWI ticket. I mean, you can get a DUI/DWI ticket for being asleep in your car with the keys not in the ignition if you have been drinking. It is a real witch hunt (not commenting on whether that is good or bad).

  • Go ahead, Audi's saying, read your newspaper or just zone out while traffic creeps along.

    Of course, this is illegal in many states in the US. Probably elsewhere, too.

    But the step by step approach is far, far better than Tesla's, which is apparently to design a car that will get you out of bed without waking you up, shower and shave you, drive you to work, make you lunch from scratch, and delivery your wife's baby along the way, all at once, and it'll be ready last week.

  • Seeing that I would be out cold. 60kph on a major highway wouldn't bother me at all. Might bother a few other people. But hey, that is what earplugs are for.
  • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @11:12PM (#54798205)

    This is just more hype from Audi. Every few years they have a big press event about a killer next generation car then go back to making the same old shit.
    This car is not in production. It might be in a few years (but they've said that before).
    Autonomy doesn't recognize stop signs, traffic lights, pedestrians, etc.
    Max speed 37mph... going nowhere fast.

    Wake me when I can actually buy one and test it.

  • by Visarga ( 1071662 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @11:37PM (#54798287)
    Imagine how many GPUs you can buy with that money. Spending it all on one car seems like such a waste.
  • let me say to every one of you folks using your expensive driver assist features: Piss Off. I'm not jealous, I just would really like it if you didn't use them to drive at unsafe speeds while the rain's set visibility to zero. Those of us stuck in old cars trying to get the hell off the freeway when we got stuck in a sudden torrential downpour would really appreciate it if you'd stop zipping by at 85 mph just because your steering wheel vibrates to let you know you're drifting out of the lane.
    • Maybe you shouldn't drive a car that's unsafe.

    • Get a better 20 year old beater. Say, a Subaru. I used to have a 1993 Impreza LS, which I deeply regret selling. I bought it for $1500, probably because it was purple and automatic. The transmission was shared with the Nissan 240SX and it has a manual mode in which you can select all the way down to first and hold it. In the Impreza that also locks the center differential. In the USDM GC5 (1993/1994) only the LS is offered with ABS, but the LS only came with the slush box. The base model came with either th

  • Quite a good move - a shell script would be a better driver than most idiots I've seen in Audis.
  • I am looking forward to the date where it becomes an issue (for others not for me) that sex workers are plying their trade out of their cars. Pick up a customer, program the car for a trip around the park or whatever, tint the windows, and conduct business in the reclined passenger seat.

    No dangerous alleys. Or crappy rent-by-the-hour hotels. No walk-ins by the spouse. Minimum time wasted. Do it right and cops will have a hard time busting you other than with a decoy.

    Sooner or later Level 3+ cars will

  • Inviting the driver to not pay attention, fall asleep etc. is profoundly dangerous "feature" in a vehicle. I'm sure the legal battle will be interesting in apportioning the blame when one of these cars inevitably smacks into child / pedestrian, runs lights, hits other vehicles / cyclists or causes accidents through erratic or dumb behaviour.
    • Inviting the driver to not pay attention, fall asleep etc. is profoundly dangerous "feature" in a vehicle.

      Too bad you didn't RTFA before you wrote your comment, son. In fact, the vehicle will also watch for distracted drivers, and harass them until they pay attention. If it detects they are sleeping, it will pull the car to the side of the road, where they can nap until the police arrive to bust them for reckless endangerment.

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