Audi has become the first carmaker allowed to publicly operate autonomous vehicles in the US state of Nevada, and is just the third organisation to obtain such a licence.
Google’s autonomous program was the first to be permitted to test autonomous - driverless - vehicles on public roads in May last year, while automotive supplier Continental (best known for its tyres) was granted the second-ever licence in December.
Like these other licence-holders, autonomous Audis will be signified by a specific red coloured number plate, featuring an infinity symbol.
This program is a joint venture between Stanford University and (Audi-parent) Volkswagen Group’s Silicon Valley Electronics Research Lab.
Audi refers to these developments as ‘piloted’ as opposed to ‘autonomous’, as it sees systems that aid a pilot/driver during menial situations (like the autopilot function used in aviation) as more realistic to the automotive world than full automation.
This intention to develop technology that complements a driver sits well with Nevada’s stipulation that autonomous vehicles keep a human driver aboard at all times, in case intervention is required.
Appropriately, Audi announced its autonomous licence simultaneously with its presence at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Nevada this week, where it is discussing a number of potential ‘piloted’ technologies.
These include an evolution of existing automated parking systems, plus systems to alleviate driver effort in stop/start traffic congestion.