Audi prototype drives itself to Las Vegas

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.

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

“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.”

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

Certain countries around Europe have stricter policies than others regarding drinking and driving and harsher punishments for those caught exceeding legal limits. Here's what you need to know.

COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

European countries set their own driving laws and speed limits and it’s no different when it comes to legal drink-drive limits.

While the safest thing to do of course, is to drink no alcohol at all before driving it is useful to know what the limit is in the country you are driving in whether as a tourist or as someone who frequently crosses European borders by car for work.

While some countries, such as the Czech Republic, have zero tolerance for drinking and driving, in others people are allowed to have a certain amount of alcohol in their blood while driving.

However, not only can the rules be different between countries, they are usually stricter for commercial (or bus) drivers and novice drivers as well. Besides that, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is extremely difficult to estimate, so the old “one beer is ok” standards no longer safely apply.

In the end, the only way to be safe is to avoid consuming alcohol before driving. Any amount will slow reflexes while giving you dangerous higher confidence. According to the UK’s National Health Service, there is no ‘safe’ drinking level.

How is blood alcohol level measured?

European countries mostly measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is the amount, in grams, of alcohol in one litre of blood.

After alcohol is consumed, it will be absorbed fast from the stomach and intestine to the bloodstream. There, it is broken down by a liver-produced enzyme.

Each person will absorb alcohol at their own speed, and the enzyme will also work differently in each one.

The BAC will depend on these metabolic particularities as well as body weight, gender, how fast and how much the person drank, their age and whether or not (and how much) they have eaten, and even stress levels at the time.

In other words there are many things that may influence the alcohol concentration.

The only way to effectively measure BAC is by taking a blood test – even a breathalyser test could show different results. Still, this is the measuring unit used by many EU countries when deciding on drinking limits and penalties for drivers.

Here are the latest rules and limits.

Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Greece, Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, and Croatia

In most EU countries, the limit is just under 0.5g/l for standard drivers (stricter rules could be in place for novice or professional drivers).

This could be exceeded by a man with average weight who consumed one pint of beer (containing 4.2% alcohol) and two glasses of red wine (13% alcohol) while having dinner.

If a person is caught driving with more than 0.8g/l of blood alcohol content in Austria, they can pay fines of up to € 5,900 and to have their license taken for one year in some cases.

In France, if BAC exceeds 0.8g/l, they could end up with a 2-year jail sentence and a € 4,500 fine. In Germany, penalties start at a € 500 fine and a one-month license suspension. In Greece, drunk drivers could face up to years of imprisonment.

In Denmark, first time offenders are likely to have their licences suspended and could be required to go on self-paid alcohol and traffic courses if BAC levels are low. Italy has penalties that vary depending on whether or not the driver has caused an accident and could lead to car apprehension, fines and prison sentences.

In Spain, going over a 1.2g/l limit is a criminal offence that could lead to imprisonment sentences and hefty fines. 

Norway, Sweden, and Poland

In Norway, Sweden, and Poland, the limit for standard drivers is 0.2g/l. It could take a woman with average weight one standard drink, or one can of beer, to reach that level.

Penalties in Norway can start at a one month salary fine and a criminal record. In Poland, fines are expected if you surpass the limit, and you could also have your license revoked and receive a prison sentence.

Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia

The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia have one of the strictest rules in the European Union. There is no allowed limit of alcohol in the blood for drivers.

In the Czech Republic, fines start at € 100 to € 800, and a driving ban of up to one year can be instituted for those driving with a 0.3 BAC level. However, the harshest penalties come if the BAC level surpasses 1 g/l, fines can be up to € 2,000, and drivers could be banned from driving for 10 years and imprisoned for up to three years.

This is intended to be a general guide and reference. Check the current and specific rules in the country you plan to travel to. The easiest and best way to be safe and protect yourself and others is to refrain from drinking alcohol and driving.