Audi’s all-new A8 limo is set to introduce a new technology aimed at reducing the risk to passing cyclists. The Exit Warning system scans the area behind a parked vehicle and will lock the doors until the coast is clear to protect passers by.
While cyclist safety is the primary aim of the system, Exit Warning will also keep the doors closed for passing cars and trucks reducing not only the risk of injury, but also ensuring the A8 (and any passing vehicles) won't require an expensive trip to a body repair shop.
The new system is an extension of technology already found in Audi vehicles including the A4 range and Q7 SUV which use warning lights to alert occupant to the presence of an oncoming bicycle or other traffic. The A8 steps up its level of protection by physically blocking an incident from occurring.
The A8 has a number of ultrasonic radar sensors on its front and rear bumpers that give it a medium range view of the surrounding world and can alert the driver when it is safe to change lanes, and will be expanded over time to include advanced semi-autonomous functions.
As an extension of that role the rear sensors can also check for traffic, including bicycles, approaching from the rear for up to three minutes after the engine has been turned off.
As with the A4 and Q7, the driver (or anyone else seated next to a door) will see red lights flashing on the door trim if they grab the door handle when a bicycle is approaching from behind.
Should an occupant continue to open the door in spite of the warning the vehicle will lock that door momentarily until the passing traffic is out of harm's way.
“The first thing is there is a warning; it’s based on the sensors in the rear,” explained Audi system expert Georg Maier during a demonstration of the system.
“The second thing is it delays the release of the door, so whenever there is traffic from the rear it delays door opening by 0.8 seconds.”
Front and rear sensors on the A8 can also warn the driver of traffic (including bicycles) that may be obscured by nearby parked cars or when visibility is hampered, like reversing out of a driveway or garage.
In Victoria alone, according to VicRoads statistics there have been 771 dooring incidents involving cyclists between July 2011 and June 2016 including two fatalities.
It is an offence under rule 269(3) of the Victorian road safety rules “to cause a hazard to a person or a vehicle by opening a car door, leaving a door of a vehicle open, or getting off, or out of, a vehicle.” The motorist could be fined $396.
While Audi’s exit warning system has obvious safety benefits for both cyclists or the car occupant attempting to possibly step out in front of a cement truck, for the moment its application is limited by the rarity of the vehicle in which it is fitted.
Current A8 prices start from around $200,000 and the upcoming model is not likely to be any cheaper. Sales of the current model have totaled 489 since its release in 2010 so the technology will be limited in its impact on the wider community.
More promising however is the potential for the safety system to trickle down through Audi’s more affordable models, along with the possibility that other members of the Volkswagen Group (like Skoda and Volkswagen) could also introduce the system, while other mainstream rivals may be moved to develop their own similar tech.
According Mr Maier the radar sensors are used in other Audi models, and the algorithm for the exit warning software is integrated into their operating system.
“It’s the usual case, we start with the flagship and think how to roll that out on the other models,” he said.
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