The incredible self-parking car that can even come and meet you when you’re done shopping
- Driverless Audi A7 can navigate through multi storey car parks to find an empty space – then park itself
- Owners can simply call their car via an app when they are done – and it will come and meet them
By Mark Prigg
PUBLISHED: 09:06 EST, 9 January 2013 | UPDATED: 13:07 EST, 9 January 2013
It is every shopper’s dream – a car that can automatically drop you at your favourite store, go and park itself, and then come to meet you when you’re done.
Car firm Audi says its self driving technology, revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, could be commonplace in a decade.
The modified Audi A7 was put through its paces in the car park of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Las Vegas, ferrying journalists around the cavernous car park.
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‘Imagine you are at a shopping center and you want the car to pick you up,’ said Annie Lien, Audi Senior Engineer, told ABC News.
‘That’s exactly what it will do.
‘If I press the pickup button, this car will turn itself on and start driving, and it will stop right in front of your doorstep.’
The system works using a combination of sensors on the car and car park.
This allows computer systems in the carpark to tell the car where there are spaces.
For the Las Vegas test, the car only moved in special ‘pedestrian free zones’, but Audi is also developing anti collision technology so it could one day be used in a normal car park.
the firm is among several, including Google, who are developing self driving cars.
It hopes the technology could be commonplace within a decade.
The car giant has also been working with Stanford University scientists have to develop the self-driving robotic car.
The white Audi TTS was last year put through its paces on the Thunderhill Raceway, north of Sacramento, California.
The autonomous car raced round the three mile course in two and a half minutes, a time that rivals those posted by professional drivers.
The affectionately named Shelley is the result of a collaboration between Stanford’s Dynamic Design Lab, led by mechanical engineering design graduate Chris Gerdes, and the Volkswagen Electronics Research Lab.
Shelley navigates the course with the help of an assortment of algorithms.
The software that tells Shelley when to brake, how tight to turn, and when to push the pedal to the metal, was tested by Gerdes at Thunderhill.
The researchers claim the route Shelley takes is nearly the same as the one a professional racing driver would take.
However, despite the autonomous car’s sophisticated technology, it still can’t quite compete with human-driven equivalents.
‘Human drivers are very, very smooth,’ said Gerdes.
Shelley computes the fastest line around a course and executes the exact corrections required to stick to it.
A person relies more on feel and intuition, and thus may, for example, allow the car to swing too wide in one turn if he knows it sets him up better for the next.
‘Human drivers are ok with the car operating in a comfortable range of states,’ said Gerdes. ‘We’re trying to capture some of that spirit.’
Gerdes and his students will have the opportunity to do just that this weekend at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion races at the Laguna Seca Raceway.
The group has enlisted two professional drivers to wear a suite of biological sensors as they race around the track.
The sensors will record variables such as the driver’s body temperature and heart rate.
Scalp electrodes will be used to register the driver’s brain activity as they race against other humans to determine which driving maneuvers require the most concentration and brainpower.
The biological data will be paired with mechanical performance data from the car – a 1966 Ford GT40, the only American-built automobile to finish first overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race – which Stanford has kitted out with feedback sensors similar to those on Shelley.
‘We need to know what the best drivers do that makes them so successful,’ said Gerdes. ‘If we can pair that with the vehicle dynamics data, we can better use the car’s capabilities.’
The team believes that the experience and the data they have gained can be used to develop autonomous vehicles for use on public roads.
In the nearer term, the technology could be used as an onboard co-pilot that helps the driver steer out of a dangerous situation.
The reality of racing a car round a track and pushing that vehicle to its absolute limit means that it will be subjected to exceptionally high levels of stress.
The recent tests left poor Shelley without any brake pads due to the intense heat generated by friction between the tyres and the pads themselves.
Pushing a car to the limit on the racetrack is one of the best ways to find out what type of stress that car is under in a crisis.
‘If we can figure out how to get Shelley out of trouble on a race track, we can get out of trouble on ice,’ said Gerdes.
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