With the Audi AI traffic jam pilot, the brand with the four rings is presenting the world’s first system to enable conditional automated driving at level 3. The car takes over the task of driving in a traffic jam or slow moving highway traffic up to 60 km/h (37.3 mph). In this defined situation, drivers no longer need to continuously monitor the vehicle and the road. They must merely remain alert and capable of taking over the task of driving when the system prompts them to do so.
Certain ambient conditions must be met for Audi AI traffic jam pilot to engage:
- The vehicle is on an highway or a multi-lane road with barrier between oncoming lanes and a structure along the edge like guard rails.
- Slow-moving nose-to-tail traffic predominates in all neighboring lanes.
- The vehicle’s own speed must not exceed 60 km/h (37.3 mph).
- No traffic lights or pedestrians may be present within the relevant viewing range of the vehicle’s sensors.
If these conditions are met, the driver gets visual cues that the system is available. The driver activates the system by pressing the AI button on the center console.
While the traffic jam pilot is active, the driver can relax. In this defined situation, drivers can take their foot off the accelerator and hands off the steering wheel for longer periods and, in compliance with applicable national regulations, can turn to other activities supported by the on-board infotainment system. In the Audi virtual cockpit, a dedicated screen which takes up the entire display area opens in blue and green colors. It displays abstracted symbolic representations of the movements and the surroundings of the car.
The Audi AI traffic jam pilot handles starting from a stop, accelerating, steering and braking in its lane. It can also handle demanding situations such as vehicles cutting in closely in front. The control signals required by the system for conditional automated driving are obtained from the central driver assistance controller (zFAS) which continually computes a model of the driving environment. Simultaneously, the radar control unit makes its own redundant computations.
During conditional automated driving, a camera checks whether the driver is prepared to resume the task of steering, if needed. It analyzes the position and movement of the head and eyes in order to generate anonymized data. If a driver’s eyes remain closed for an extended period, for example, the system prompts the driver to resume the driving task. Visual and acoustic warnings are made over several stages. If the speed exceeds 60 km/h (37.3 mph) or the traffic begins to clear, the traffic jam pilot informs drivers they need resume driving themselves. The driver indicates taking over the driving task by grasping the steering wheel, for example, which is detected by a capacity sensor. The steering torque sensor, gas pedal and brake pedal likewise register activity. If the driver ignores this prompt and the subsequent warnings, the car is braked continuously until it stops completely in its lane.
Introduction of the Audi AI traffic jam pilot requires both clarity regarding the legal parameters for each country and specific adaptation and testing of the system. Moreover, varying worldwide homologation procedures and their deadlines must be observed. For these reasons, Audi will initiate series production of the traffic jam pilot in the new A8 incrementally, depending on the legal situation in the respective country.