Self-Driving Cars Become Reality as Audi A7 Drives Itself to CES
On the same day that Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche introduced Mercedes' self-driving concept
-- the F015 Luxury in Motion -- to attendees at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), another autonomous vehicle from Audi, dubbed "Jack," drove into Las Vegas after completing a 560-mile trip from California's Silicon Valley.
While Jack is also, for now, only a concept car, executives from Daimler, Audi and other auto companies at CES are voicing a common belief: self-driving cars are no longer that far away from becoming a reality in the automotive marketplace.
While Google has often seemed like the boldest advocate and tester of autonomous cars in recent years, Mercedes started working on self-driving cars almost 30 years ago, Zetsche reminded his audience. Developed as part of a European effort called the Eureka Prometheus Project, the test vehicle built with the help of Daimler-Benz successfully completed 620 miles of driving on Germany's famed Autobahn, he noted.
Following that feat, however, "all the research partners agreed it was too ambitious, too complex, too expensive," Zetsche said. Three decades later, those obstacles are increasingly falling away. "We need to get from technically feasible to commercially viable," he said. "The time is right to think about the car of the future."
First Concept Car Just for CES
Mercedes' F015 made its debut by rolling autonomously onto the stage at CES while Zetsche watched. After coming to a stop, the vehicle doors opened to reveal Gary Shapiro, President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, organizer of the CES.
Clearly wowed by the experience, Shapiro thanked Zetsche for the ride, adding that Mercedes was the first car company to ever design a concept car exclusively for CES.
Audi's Jack made a different kind of entrance on Monday after completing its 560-mile drive from California without human intervention. To comply with California laws, a test driver was on hand in the passenger seat throughout the trip, and a number of journalists were able to ride along in 100-mile stretches.
"The results of the test drive underscores our piloted driving competency," said Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi Board Member for Technical Development.
'Not Alone in this Race'
While advocates of self-driving cars often tout the technology's potential benefits to traffic safety -- fewer driver errors and, presumably, fewer accidents as a result -- autonomous vehicles offer the promise of giving people "more time and more space," Zetsche said. "Cars will turn into mobile homes in the very best sense of the word. This is the redefinition of automotive luxury."
Zetsche compared the evolution of the automobile to that of the bathroom. Once a small and simple space in the home with only one purpose, bathrooms today have become comfortable rooms in which people can rest and relax. In the same way, a car can evolve to become a place to hang out, a space that offers privacy and luxury and comfort, he said.
While there are still issues that need to be resolved -- questions about driver information, legal ramifications and ethical questions regarding how an autonomous car might have to decide how to avoid a collision -- Zetsche said the technology itself is rapidly moving forward. With other carmakers also pursuing autonomous vehicles, "it's good that we are not alone in this race anymore," he added.
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Posted: 2015-01-13 @ 7:55pm PT
Great innovative, leading edge technology. I'm looking forward to its mainstream progression and afforadability. Continue the great work.
Posted: 2015-01-08 @ 10:40pm PT
It has its pros and cons. I guess at the end of the day, it comes down to boredom and safety, not to disregard their computers ever malfunctioning and causing accidents, and what would it matter what kind of car you have if they all just drive themselves. I dunno ... I really like to drive though.
Posted: 2015-01-07 @ 11:00pm PT
This could end road rage, solve texting/distracted driving and eliminate DUI/DWI's. No more rude people cutting you off or running the light to merely be first, that in itself makes it a great thing. This will extend an elderly person's independence while eliminating the problems with elderly and young inexperienced drivers.
I like driving however am very willing to give it up.
Posted: 2015-01-07 @ 10:56pm PT
I love driving too much. I hope this never goes completely mainstream!
Posted: 2015-01-07 @ 5:04pm PT
It's cool. I guess it definitely can come in handy. However, I love to drive. I practically live for it. I would hate to see it take over completely, though I think older people can benefit from it.