Autopilot in the car becomes reality

At first glance, the silver car on Highway 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles with its distinctive superstructure on the roof could be mistaken for a Streetview car taking photos for Google's street panorama service. The converted Toyota Prius (pictures above) belongs to the Internet company, but the devices on the roof are close-range radars and ambient sensors. They make it possible for the Google vehicle to drive along the west coast of the USA without the intervention of a driver.

Sensors cost 80 per car.000 euros
According to estimates by experts from the automotive supply industry, a Google Toyota upgraded in this way contains sensors worth more than 80.000 euros. The trunk and parts of the interior are packed with computers that evaluate the signals from the sensors and convert them into control commands for the car. With this bulky cargo, Google's car robot is still far from ready for series production – even if Google founders Larry Page and Sergej Brin sometimes give the impression that the age of autonomous driving cars has already begun.

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Automobile manufacturers are researching in the same direction
Google, however, dominates the headlines with its activities. However, traditional car manufacturers such as Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Volvo and Toyota, as well as supplier specialists such as Bosch and Continental, have also had the topic on their agenda for years – and can now offer initial research results even in compact and mid-range vehicles. Audi has now become the first car manufacturer in the world (after Google and Continental) to be licensed to drive computer-controlled vehicles on public roads in the US state of Nevada.

Audi and most automotive companies are not primarily concerned with realizing the vision of a self-driving car, but with making driving safer and more convenient. "In the USA alone, 28 people die every year.000 people in an accident on a highway", Toyota manager Mark Templin, general manger of the Lexus division, said at the 2013 CES electronics show in Las Vegas. "And among teenagers, car accidents are the number one cause of death. What we need to change."

Accident avoidance
At the CES, Audi and Toyota, among others, showed respectively. Lexus their systems that allow cars to detect dangerous situations with the help of computers. At Audi, for example, software recognizes the lane boundaries and the car's course. If the car approaches a line without blinking, the system helps the driver steer back into the lane with discreet steering interventions. The driver can decide for himself how early the intervention should take place and whether there should be a vibration on the steering wheel.

Other systems monitor the traffic in front of the car and warn the driver of a rear-end collision with acoustic and visual signals. If the driver does not react, the car brakes. And if a collision can no longer be avoided, the system at least tries to reduce the impact speed in order to lessen the consequences of the accident by tightening the seat belts.

In a traffic jam, the computerized cars can take complete control of the steering wheel, gas pedal and brakes. At Audi, the "Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Jack" evaluates the speed of the vehicle Go function" the data from almost 30 control units to analyze the entire environment of the vehicle. These sensors are also used in the park-assist systems, in which the car itself does the cranking at the steering wheel. If the car is to be parked in a particularly narrow space, the driver can conveniently get out of the car before parking and instruct it to park itself using a radio key or smartphone. Audi wants this new version of "piloted driving" to be introduced with the next A8, expected in 2015.

"Piloted driving"
The Ingolstadt company deliberately does not speak of "self-driving cars" or "autonomous driving, but choose with the term "piloted driving" a metaphor from aviation. In certain driving situations, in traffic jams or when pulling in, the machine could take over the wheel. "But the responsibility remains with the pilot, said Wolfgang Dürheimer, Audi's head of development, at the CES.

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