Already a leader in autonomous car research, Audi is again taking the lead by getting the first permit to test these vehicles in California. The recently released permits are opening the door to large-scale testing in the state and are pushing forward the reality of an autonomous vehicle.
California’s recent expansion of the limited testing is available to every automaker with surety bond coverage of at least $5 million for each vehicle. Currently, Audi tests in many U.S. states and European countries.
For Audi, testing on California public roads is crucial due to the state being home to the brand’s Electronics Research Lab. Audi’s ERL engineers work on a wide-range of automated driving issues.
These engineers will work locally now on Audi’s mostly autonomous Piloted Driving System for freeway traffic conditions. Audi says it hopes this system will be ready for consumer within the next 5 years.
Recently, the technology was used on the Autonomous Audi TTS Pikes Peak car which navigated the mountainous, switchback 12.42-mile route in 27 minutes without a human driver.
While autonomous driving causes some concern, we like Audi’s approach of working on freeway driving first. This type of driving is easier to automate than other driving and studies have shown automating this driving can cut down on traffic jams and reduce fuel consumption.
It will be interesting to see if other automakers join Audi in California. Autonomous driving is seemingly the next frontier for the automotive segment and getting it perfected first could mean a big boost to a company’s bottom line.