As electronics, electric power, artificial intelligence and piloted driving become the cutting edge of automotive technology, so car companies like Audi are previewing their most exciting innovations at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, rather than the more traditional motor shows.
This year at CES Audi has partnered with NVIDIA to present the Audi Q7 deep learning concept, a piloted driving car. It has also announced that the 2017 Audi A8 will offer a traffic jam pilot function for the first time in series production.
Audi is demonstrating the intelligence of the Q7 concept at CES on a specially designed, variable open area for piloted driving. The car orients itself by means of a front camera with 2 megapixel resolution, and the camera communicates with an NVIDIA Drive PX 2 processing unit, which in turn controls the steering with high precision. The high-performance controller is specially engineered for piloted driving applications.
Serving as the core of the software are deep neural networks that experts from Audi and NVIDIA have trained specifically for autonomous driving and recognition of dynamic traffic control signals. Beginning with a human driver at the wheel, the Audi Q7 deep learning concept gained a limited familiarity with the route and the surroundings, by means of observation and with the help of additional training cameras. That established a correlation between the driver’s reactions and the occurrences detected by the cameras.
During the subsequent demonstration drives the car is then able to understand instructions, like from a temporary traffic signal, interpret them right away and act as the situation requires. When a corresponding signal appears, the concept car immediately changes the driving strategy and selects either the short route or the long one. The design of the system is so robust that it can even cope with disturbance variables such as changing weather and light conditions. It masters its tasks day and night, and even in direct sunlight or harsh artificial light.
Audi believes artificial intelligence is a game-changing key technology for piloted driving, which is why it is working closely with the leaders in the electronics industry. Together with its partners, Audi is evaluating various approaches and methods for machine learning.
In the new Audi A8, Audi and Mobileye are demonstrating the next level of development – with image recognition that uses deep learning methods for the first time. This significantly reduces the need for manual training methods during the development phase. Deep neural networks enable the system to be self-learning when determining which characteristics are appropriate and relevant for identifying the various objects. With this methodology the car can even recognise empty driving spaces, an important prerequisite for safe, piloted driving.
The traffic jam pilot function will be offered in a series production model for the first time in the new A8. This is the first piloted driving function in series production that will enable the driver to let the vehicle take over full control at times. With this step the stage is set to begin the next decade with higher levels of automation in a growing number of driving situations.