Audi ElAIne and Audi AIcon – two concept cars whose very names refer to the new, two-letter abbreviation under which Audi is bundling an entire cluster of innovative mobility technologies. Audi AI is the new cipher for a variety of innovative systems that relieve strain on drivers and simultaneously also offer them new possibilities to use the time spent in the car. To this end, Audi AI also uses strategies and technologies from the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Audi AI systems are capable of learning and thinking, while also being proactive and personal. Thanks to Audi AI, models bearing the four rings will be both intelligent and empathetic. They will be able to continually interact with their surroundings and passengers, and thus adapt themselves in a better way than ever before to the requirements of those on board.
Freedom on the road
Audi AI draws on the many years of experience that the brand has accumulated in concept cars featuring piloted driving. The new label bundles together innovative and intelligent electronic systems and technologies from Audi. Audi AI creates new forms of freedom for drivers and passengers by reducing the complexity of their interaction with the vehicle and with other road users. Various elements of artificial intelligence also play a leading role in this – both in the development of new, intelligent and empathetic systems, as well as during their subsequent use. Audi is evaluating various approaches and methods for machine learning in this regard.
Automated driving – from assistance functions to autonomy
What is long established in rail transportation and even aviation is only now at the threshold of feasibility for automotive transportation – automated driving. Audi is the technology leader here, and the new generation of its A8 flagship is the world’s first production model developed for conditional automated driving at level 3.
What does this classification mean? A five-level scale has been established in international automotive engineering as the definition for automated driving. This scale was developed by the American standardization organization SAE.
- Level 1 – Driver Assistance: The system is able to take over either continual longitudinal or the lateral control of the vehicle. It supports the driver, who remains responsible, however, and must be ready to assume control immediately, if necessary. An example of a level 1 system of this type at Audi is the adaptive cruise control (ACC) system.
- Level 2 – Partial Automation: In certain situations, the driver can delegate continuous, combined longitudinal and lateral control of the vehicle to the system, but must monitor the system at all times and assume control as needed. The driver therefore always maintains responsibility. An example is the traffic jam assist from Audi: it assumes the tasks of braking and accelerating the car in slow-moving traffic up to 65 km/h (40.4 mph), and also takes charge of steering on better roads.
- Level 3 – Conditional Automation: The driver no longer has to continuously monitor and can carry out other activities supported by on-board equipment. The system autonomously recognizes the limit – that is, the point at which the ambient conditions no longer match the range of functions of the system. In these cases, the vehicle prompts the driver to take over the task of driving the vehicle, with several seconds advance warning. The traffic jam pilot in the new Audi A8 will satisfy these criteria.
- Level 4 – High Automation: Systems with level 4 function do not require any assistance on the part of the driver, but their function is limited to a specific area – such as on highways or in a parking garage. In these places, the driver can completely transfer the task of driving to the system. The driver only needs to resume the task when the car leaves the area defined for highly automated driving. If the driver does not react, the system assumes a safe position, e.g. pulls onto the shoulder and stops there. Robot taxis in city centers are another example of such a system. They take over the complete task of driving within a restricted speed range and on a limited route.
- Level 5 – Full Automation: The automobile assumes complete longitudinal and lateral control. Level 5 systems do not need help from the driver in any situation. Control elements like the steering wheel or pedals are not necessary here.
Audi developers in the field of piloted and conditional automated driving are focused in practice on systematically and rapidly expanding the scope of and the situations in which levels 3 and 4 can be used. Their aspiration is for drivers to reclaim as much freedom and time for themselves as possible.
Research on the highway
In 2013, Audi was the first car manufacturer worldwide to obtain a testing license for the US states of California and Nevada. In January 2015, the Audi A7 piloted driving concept research vehicle drove 900 kilometers (559.2 mi) on the highway from San Francisco to Las Vegas. In May 2015, an automated Audi A7 drove in the dense urban traffic of Shanghai, China – a highly complex situation.
How far along is the development of the intelligent automobile today? Ultrasound and radar sensors, laser scanners, camera-based systems, a high-performance processor for data processing and a rapid internet connection via the mobile phone network are all features that the new Audi A8 has on board. As rule-based applications, driver assistance systems such as active lane assist, adaptive cruise control (ACC) or the predictive efficiency assistant have already made driving safer, more comfortable and more efficient in recent years.
The car looks to the future
The next step is Audi AI. In the future, the car will process the large amounts of data acquired underway by the various assistance systems faster than ever. It can synchronize and share these data with other road users nearly in real time. With Audi AI, the fully networked car can look roughly 10 seconds into the future – farther than the systems used previously. In short: The car of the future will for the first time be able to make prognoses.
And the future begins with the new Audi A8. In this model, Audi is presenting the Audi AI traffic jam pilot – the world’s first system that allows conditional automated driving at level 3. Level 3 means that in defined situations, the car takes over the task of driving. Unlike at level 2, the driver no longer needs to monitor it permanently. The driver needs merely to be in a position to take back control within 10 seconds once requested to do so. The new Audi AI traffic jam pilot is a technological milestone that was preceded by many years of research and development work.
Vehicle intelligence and interaction intelligence
Vehicle intelligence is a key part of Audi AI. Assist systems and technologies with this capability are blazing the trail to automobiles that can drive autonomously. The Audi AI traffic jam pilot in the new Audi A8 is an example of how vehicle intelligence looks today.
A comprehensive collection of sensors scans the surroundings. The central driver assistance controller (zFAS), which celebrates its premiere in the new Audi A8, then uses this data to continually compute an image of the surroundings with the help of a second fusion of data in the radar controller. The new Audi A8 is the world’s first production automobile to fulfill the technical requirements for conditional automated driving on demand in traffic jam situations.
On the path to highly automated driving functions and the vision of autonomous driving, the car of the future will offer much more. Vehicle intelligence will steadily advance, and the car will also possess a high level of interaction intelligence.
Thanks to Audi AI, the car will feature a completely new characteristic in the future: empathy. It can empathize with its occupants. The intelligent systems and technologies turn the car into an empathetic companion that thinks far outside the box of its originally intended purpose. Audi AI allows the vehicles of the future to anticipate the wishes of the driver or passengers in a situationally appropriate way, and thus support them proactively. Furthermore, they can suggest a service and book it for the passengers autonomously, very much like a personal concierge. Audi AI thus creates new freedom and a new type of premium experience.
In a nutshell, Audi AI stands for the holistic and responsible interplay of innovative technologies that are seamlessly networked with the infrastructure and other road users. The Audi of the future will continually learn new things and develop its capabilities even further. In this way, the technology adapts ever more closely to the individual needs of people.
Audi AI fundamentally changes how automobiles are used and significantly enhances the time spent on board. The car will become more and more a “third living space” alongside our homes and workplaces. Individual customer benefits are Audi’s main focus, as is the clear relation to mobility. Audi AI’s advantages for the customer are clearly defined: The intelligent systems and technologies are targeted toward time, safety, efficiency and customization.
Functions such as the new Audi AI traffic jam pilot or piloted parking are just the beginning. Audi AI makes it possible for drivers to use their time on board a fully connected vehicle more freely in the future. Drivers can gradually let go of the steering wheel and work, communicate or relax instead. And because the autonomously driving vehicle takes over routine tasks such as parking or even driving through the car wash, the driver also gains time.
Currently, driver error is the reason for up to 90 percent of all road accidents. In the future, Audi AI will prevent dangerous situations that cause accidents from arising in the first place. If automated driving eventually is to be possible even in confusing traffic situations, additional methods and approaches are required. These range from rule-based systems right up to elements from artificial intelligence. The development of a vehicle capable of avoiding accidents is the top priority at Audi.
Extensively networked and piloted vehicles use space and energy more efficiently, which brings about both ecological and economic benefits. Using Car-to-X technology (intelligent networking of road users and the infrastructure), the vehicle can avoid traffic jams or find the nearest free parking space. Besides the individual customer benefits and energy savings, there is another economic dimension to piloted driving: The targeted guidance of traffic flows can permanently reduce traffic on heavily frequented routes.
Audi AI enables the vehicle to gets to know its passengers and their habits personally. Man and machine communicate with one another, establishing trust and allowing for a much more flexible daily routine. The personal intelligent assistant (PIA) gets to know the driver and thanks to intelligent algorithms can interact with the user autonomously and adaptively.