During an interval at the final round of the German DTM Touring Car championship at Hockenheim on 19 October, an Audi RS7 Sportback will carry out a demonstration lap around the circuit.
Nothing so significant about that you might think, but there’s one fact that will make this particularly interesting – the car won’t have a driver.
How fast will this robot RS7 go?
Audi says the driverless RS7 will attack Hockenheim ‘at racing speed’ and ‘will drive to its physical limits with millimetre precision’, which sounds dramatic. Moreover, Audi also says it will be ‘approximately as fast as with a professional race driver at the wheel’ – either a damning indictment of its works drivers’ abilities or a sign that this car can drive itself very well indeed.
A target time of just over two minutes around the circuit’s Grand Prix layout is expected and Audi expects the car to reach a highest speed of 149mph during the lap.
The RS7 isn’t the first driverless Audi to lap a race circuit. In 2012 an Audi TTS nicknamed ‘Shelley’ lapped Laguna Seca sans driver as part of a collaborative project between Stanford University and Volkswagen’s Electronics Research Lab, reaching 120mph in the process.
What’s the point of all this?
It’s to demonstrate the potential, and get people talking about, Audi’s ‘piloted driving’ system, which the company plans to roll out across certain production models in the near future and has recently been undergoing testing on selected sections of public road in Florida. Make no mistake: autonomous cars are coming.
A series of interlinked lasers, radar and cameras talk to a central computer which enables the car to steer and brake itself autonomously, change lanes in stop-start traffic and maintain a safe distance from vehicles around it. There’s also potential for cars fitted with the system to park themselves while the driver sets off on foot.
Similar technology is already fitted to production cars such as the Mercedes S-Class and the new Volkswagen Passat, both of which can do the hard work for you in stop-start traffic jams.
Watch the video trailer for the driverless RS7’s lap below: