CES: Audi Sedan Driving Itself to Las Vegas

Courtesy of Audi
Audi's self-driving A7 departs Stanford, Calif. en route to CES.

The A7, demonstrating Audi’s autonomous driving technology, will arrive at CES tomorrow after a 550-mile self-piloted highway journey from Silicon Valley

While Mercedes chief Dieter Zetsche unveils a radical self-driving concept car Monday night in a keynote at the International CES show, a specially equipped A7 manufactured by archrival Audi will be driving itself to Las Vegas.

The A7 departed Stanford, Calif. on Sunday to demonstrate Audi’s take on self-driving, or autonomous cars, in a real-world environment—the car uses cameras, radar and laser sensors to avoid traffic and can brake, accelerate to 70 mph and change lanes on a freeway without driver intervention, although a driver must take control on city streets, where the technology is less effective.

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A professional driver is supervising the autonomous portions of the A7's journey from California, during which auto journalists are given control of the car for 100-mile driverless legs. Audi earlier demonstrated its autonomous technology with a specially equipped RS-7 supercar, which drove itself on the Hockenheimring racetrack in Germany at speeds of 150 mph.

Audi says most of its self-driving technology is production ready and could be incorporated into the next generation of the company's cars. Mercedes introduced similar technology as an option on its 2014 S Class sedan and Zetsche is expected to unveil enhancements to the system at the Mercedes keynote this evening.

Self-driving cars are becoming practical much sooner than expected and are predicted to become commonplace as early as 2020. Advocates for the technology point to research that predicts 4.2 million accidents could be prevented and 21,700 lives saved if 90 percent of U.S. vehicles were autonomous.

The A7 is expected to arrive in Las Vegas Tuesday morning in time for Audi's CES press conference.

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