Also on Sept. 16, the Department of Motor Vehicles issued testing permits that allowed three companies to dispatch 29 vehicles onto freeways and into neighborhoods. Humans remained behind the wheel for damage control purposes. Lexus SUVs led the pack with 25 automated cars, while Volkswagen and Mercedes represented the remaining four.
Audi has conducted research over tens of thousands of miles in Europe and various U.S. states, where such testing is permitted. The research is aimed at preparing a highly automated Piloted driving system for freeway traffic conditions. Audi envisions this technology could be ready for consumer introduction within five years.California roads are especially crucial to Audi Piloted driving testing because the state is home to the brand’s Electronics Research Lab. ERL engineers are working on a wide range of automated driving issues, including human-machine interface prompts that indicate when the human or the vehicle are handling driving functions.
Audi and ERL researchers have been involved in the pursuit of automated driving from its earliest stages. Audi, ERL and Stanford University engineers collaborated on the development of the Autonomous Audi TTS Pikes Peak car, which successfully completed the challenging 12.42-mile route of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb race in Colorado in 27 minutes without a human in the car.
“Audi is a driving force behind the research taking automated driving from science fiction to pre-production readiness,” said Scott Keogh, President, Audi of America. “Obtaining the first permit issued by the State of California shows that we intend to remain the leader in this vital technology frontier.”
California has allowed limited use of its roads for automated vehicle testing in past years. But the state legislature, led by Sen. Alex Padilla, passed legislation that Gov. Jerry Brown signed in 2012 to establish new guidelines for testing and eventually consumer use of technologies, such as Audi Piloted driving.
Regulations taking effect include proof of insurance or surety bonds for manufacturers testing automated driving research cars, and permits for company-designated operators of those vehicles.
“California has shown time and time again that it is a global technological leader and today marks the beginning of a new era for the auto industry,” Sen. Padilla said. “Driverless vehicle technology has the potential to revolutionize driving, reduce traffic accidents and save lives. I applaud the efforts of Audi of America and others whose commitment is making this technology a reality.”
In 2012, Audi was the first automotive OEM to receive one of the red autonomous vehicle license plates issues by the State of Nevada. In July 2014, with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Audi was the first automaker to demonstrate the capability of its automated driving technologies on a Tampa expressway newly designated as an autonomous and connected car test bed. Michigan passed laws shortly after California, but does not require special permits to test self-driving cars on public roads.
National regulations appear to be years away, due to the lack of response from the federal government.