Audi prototype drives itself to Las Vegas

Audi prototype drives itself to Las Vegas
Audi's self-driving car sets out on its two-day voyage to the Consumer Electronics Show. Photo: Audi
Car-maker Audi hopes to wow the world with a 900-kilometre tour for its self-driving prototype, from California's Silicon Valley to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

“With the test drive from the west coast of California to Las Vegas we're demonstrating our leading role in the area of self-driving cars”, Audi technical development director Professor Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg said in a statement.

The prototype, an Audi A7 nicknamed “Jack” by engineers, can drive itself at up to 110 km/h on motorways, performing lane changes and overtaking automatically, the company said.

Standard sensors such as radars, as well as some that will be installed on future models, including a 3D camera and a laser scanner, allow the car to match its speed to others around it and to perform road manoeuvres.

Human drivers take back control from the automatic systems before entering built-up areas, which are currently too complex for the car to navigate by itself.

If the driver ignores the signals to take back the wheel, the car automatically brings itself to a stop on the hard shoulder.

Gold rush for networked cars

This year's CES will see numerous companies showing off their self-driving and networked vehicles, with German manufacturers Audi, BMW and Volkswagen particularly keen to show off their prowess.

Car-makers have flocked to the show in recent years, hoping to impress consumers and meet new business partners in the hectic flurry of hotel-room meetings, as drivers increasingly demand high-tech features in their rides.

A 2013 survey by Accenture showed that 39 percent of US car buyers said technology was their top selling point.

At last year's show, Audi's self-driving car made a short trip through Las Vegas, but the company is hoping to make a bigger impression this time around with its long-distance trek.

“CES has definitely become an A show”, Audi spokesman Brad Stertz told Bloomberg.

“It's important now more than ever, especially in the luxury segment, to be seen as a technology leader.”

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