Jan. 10, 2013 at 1:58 PM ET
If you needed physical proof that Audi is working on its own self-driving car, look no further than its Pilot Parking and Pilot Driving for AudiConnect vehicles. These two cars, which are built using production sensors, can easily park and drive themselves, respectively, without human interference. The fact that the vehicles’ sensors are pieces of production equipment means that the Project Parking and Project Driving vehicles don’t need those enormous sensors found on Google’s self-driving vehicle.
To demonstrate its autonomous technology, Audi brought its Pilot Parking vehicle to CES 2013, where we watched it drive out of a parking space at a nearby hotel parking garage, turn around a corner and back with no one behind the wheel.
The Pilot Parking feature is activated via Audi’s iOS app. Audi engineer Annie Lien demonstrated the vehicle for us by first tapping the app’s Pickup button on her iPhone. When the vehicle received the signal from the app, it automatically began to pull out of its parking space, following a predetermined path Audi setup using a series of sensors installed around the parking garage.
A separate app displayed on an iPad showed us the vehicle’s status as it rolled out of its spot and made its way around a corner to our location. As the car turned the corner, we could see its steering wheel move on its own, making small adjustments as it straightened itself out. When the Audi reached its final destination directly in front of us, it came to a stop. We then watched as the car pulled away, found its empty parking spot and backed itself between two other parked cars.
While Audi says the hardware used in the Pilot Parking concept is currently available for use in its vehicles, the software is still in its early development phases. Still, Audi says the Pilot Parking and Pilot Driving systems will hit the road within the decade, which means you may never have to search for a parking space at a crowded shopping mall or parking garage again. Just don’t tell your valet.
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