Audi delays Level 3 autonomous driving launch

The fourth-generation Audi A8 will miss out on eyes-off-the-road self-driving functionality because of legal uncertainty.

1 year ago
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Derek Fung

The current Audi A8 looks set to miss out on its much-vaunted Traffic Jam Pilot eyes-off self-driving system.

When the fourth-generation sedan flagship was launched in 2017, the automaker promised it would add the option of Level 3 autonomous driving within a few years in jurisdictions permitting it.

Hans-Joachim Rothenpieler, head of technical development at Audi, told Automotive News Europe, “Currently, there is no legal framework for Level 3 automated driving and it is not possible to homologate such functions anywhere in the world in a series production car”.

As a result “we will not see the Traffic Jam Pilot on the road with its originally planned Level 3 functionality in the current model generation of the Audi A8 because [it] has already gone through a substantial part of its model life cycle”.

With Audi’s Level 3 system on, the driver is able to take their hands off the steering wheel and keep their eyes off the road, allowing them to potentially watch a video or read a newspaper.

Autonomy would only be available on highways. If the car detects a situation it can’t handle, it will prompt the driver to take control.

Audi delays Level 3 autonomous driving launch
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The Level 3 system differs to Level 2 driver assistance systems from Tesla, Cadillac and Nissan, as they require the driver to keep their eyes on the road and potentially intervene without being prompted.

With a Level 2 system the legal responsibility for the car’s safe operation is solely the driver’s – when a Level 3 system is activated that responsibility shifts to the manufacturer.

Given the legal complexity surrounding Level 3 systems, some automakers and technology companies are planning to skip it entirely and press on with Level 4 and Level 5 fully-autonomous vehicles.

The next-generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the electric BMW iNext crossover are currently slated to include Level 3 self-driving functionality.


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