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Big brother Audi to stamp out pranks in autonomous A8

Published: 13 July 2016

► New Audi A8's autonomous kit
► Includes 'foolproof' systems
► Drive it totally hands-free 

The new 2017 Audi A8 will take eyes-off autonomy to a new European level, by being able to drive itself at up to 60kph (around 40mph) on congested motorways with the driver's hands off the wheel and attention off the road. 

BMW's 7-series and the new-generation Volvos achieve Level 2 autonomy – accelerating, braking and steering themselves, at up to 130kph (80mph) - but they need the driver to touch the steering wheel every 15 seconds to demonstrate attentiveness. 'The A8 can be completely hands off,' said Audi's R&D chief Stefan Knirsch.

Tesla and autonomous pranks

US electric car maker Tesla - recently rocked by the death of a driver using Autopilot - has already pushed beyond 'hands-off' Level 2, leading to some hair-raising internet videos taken by 'drivers' in the back seat of their cars. Audi vows to stamp out such irresponsible behaviour by training a camera on the driver, with the car exiting autonomous mode - signalled by a green display - if it spots sustained inattentiveness or recklessness. 

Tesla: driver optional

Being able to trigger a controlled handover back to the driver within five seconds is a critical part of 'eyes-off' Level 3 autonomy. 'If you get in the back, we will stop the exercise,' warned Knirsch.

The Audi A8 that thinks so you don't have to

The driver monitoring system has a secondary safety benefit: if the driver is rendered unconscious, the A8 will steer its way to the hard shoulder using its rear view and lane control monitoring, before coming to a halt. The emergency services will also be alerted thanks to the car's connected capabilities.

The A8 also promises sophisticated piloted parking, from a driver outside the car using a smartphone app. Audi promises the car will be able to turn into spaces, rather than just inching forwards into a space you've already lined up.

The navigation also promises to learn your behaviour: expect it to log places you frequently visit, and even suggest destinations and route information based on the time of day: home, sir?

Click here for our full scoop on the new 2017 Audi A8

Stepping stone technologies to autonomous driving

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine

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