In May of this year, the state of New York opened up an application process for companies that wanted to test autonomous vehicles there. Audi snagged the first license and will begin testing near Albany in the coming weeks.
The Audi A7 that will do the first demo at the New York state capital is not new to the company’s fleet of autonomous test cars. With licenses to test in Nevada and California, Audi has already put thousands of miles on this test car’s odometer, according to a press release.
The A7 is set up to perform SAE Level 3 autonomous driving tasks, which means it can drive unassisted at posted highway speeds when conditions are good. So no speeding, no snow, and a driver does still need to be behind the wheel and ready to take over when prompted. It also needs to be on a divided highway with limited access, like on-ramps.
There will be two trained engineers in the car, one in the driver’s seat and one in the back, to monitor the car’s systems. New York state police have already reviewed and approved the route the car will use, and the Department of Motor Vehicles has given its official okay. State police will also be on hand to supervise the first demonstration.
This is a step on Audi’s ladder toward full autonomous driving. It expects the Level 3 system with “Traffic Jam Pilot,” which allows hands-free driving up to 35 mph on a divided highway, to be ready for the market in 2018. Audi’s Level 4 system, which can drive the car at highway speeds and change lanes unassisted, is expected to be available by 2020-2021. Level 3 will safely pull the car over if the driver doesn’t respond when the car asks them to; Level 4 will continue on if the driver doesn’t take the wheel.
To reach Level 4 autonomy by 2020, Audi will be relying on NVIDIA to assist with artificial intelligence and the processing power required to make autonomous driving safe while piloting a 4,000-pound vehicle at 70 mph.