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July 11, 2017

New Audi A8 stresses autonomous drive

Audi's new flagship A8 has been shown to a select audience at an 'Audi Summit' in Barcelona. The emphasis is on autonomous drive features and enhanced efficiency for the luxury saloon, which gets its public debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.

By David Leggett

Audi’s new flagship A8 has been shown to a select audience at an ‘Audi Summit’ in Barcelona. The emphasis is on autonomous drive features and enhanced efficiency for the luxury saloon, which gets its public debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.

Audi says the new A8 is the first production automobile in the world to have been developed for highly automated driving – parking pilot, garage pilot and traffic jam pilot.

The Audi AI traffic jam pilot takes charge of driving in slow-moving traffic at up to 60 km/h (37.3 mph) on freeways and highways where a physical barrier separates the two carriageways. The system is activated using the AI button on the centre console.

The traffic jam pilot manages starting, accelerating, steering and braking. The driver no longer needs to monitor the car permanently. Audi says the driver can take their hands off the steering wheel permanently and, depending on the national laws, focus on a different activity that is supported by the car, such as watching the on-board TV. As soon as the system reaches its limits, it calls on the driver to take back control of the task of driving, Audi says.

During piloted driving, a central driver assistance controller (zFAS) now permanently computes an image of the surroundings by merging the sensor data. As well as the radar sensors, a front camera and the ultrasonic sensors, Audi says it is the first car manufacturer also to use a laser scanner.

Regulatory framework issues

The introduction of the Audi AI traffic jam pilot means the statutory framework will need to be clarified in each individual market, along with the country-specific definition of the application and testing of the system. The brand’s high quality standards are equally applicable in the realm of highly automated driving. In addition, a range of approval procedures and their corresponding timescales will need to be observed worldwide, Audi says.

Audi will therefore be adopting a ‘step-by-step approach to the introduction of the traffic jam pilot in production models’.

Remote parking

The Audi AI remote parking pilot and the Audi AI remote garage pilot autonomously steer the A8 into and out of a parking space or a garage, while the operation is monitored by the driver. The driver need not be sitting in the car. They start the appropriate system from their smartphone using the new myAudi app. To monitor the parking operation, they hold the Audi AI button pressed to watch a live display from the car’s 360 degree cameras on their device.

The car has a comprehensive range of inputs to help with ADAS – 12 ultrasonic sensors on the front, sides and rear, four 360-degree cameras on the front, rear and side mirrors, a long-range radar and laser scanner at the front, a front camera at the top of the windscreen and a mid-range radar at each corner.

48-volt mild hybrid set-up

All of the A8’s powerplants will use 48-volt electrical architecture to power a mild hybrid system for extra fuel efficiency. All five engines operate in conjunction with a belt alternator starter (BAS), which is the nerve centre of the 48-volt electrical system. This mild hybrid technology (MHEV, mild hybrid electric vehicle) enables the car to coast with the engine switched off, and to restart smoothly, Audi says. It also has an extended start/stop function and an energy recovery output of up to 12 kW. The combined effect of these measures is to bring down the fuel consumption by as much as 0.7 liters (0.2 US gal) per 100 kilometers (62.1 mi) in real driving conditions.

The new A8 starts out in the German market with two extensively reengineered V6 turbo engines: a 3.0 TDI and a 3.0 TFSI. The diesel develops 210 kW (286 hp), and the gasoline version 250 kW (340 hp). Two eight-cylinder versions – a 4.0 TDI with 320 kW (435 hp) and a 4.0 TFSI with 338 kW (460 hp) – will follow slightly later. The exclusive top engine version is the W12 with a displacement of 6.0 liters.

The A8 L e-tron quattro with plug-in hybrid drive will follow at a later date. Its 3.0 TFSI and the powerful electric motor achieve 330 kW (449 hp) of system power and 700 Nm (516.3 lb-ft) of system torque. The lithium-ion battery stores enough power for about 50 kilometres (31.1 mi) of electric driving. It can optionally be charged by Audi Wireless Charging. A pad in the garage floor transfers the power inductively to a receiver coil in the automobile with a power output of 3.6 kW.

The new Audi A8 and A8 L (long wheel base) are being built at the Neckarsulm site and will appear on the German market in November 2017. The starting price for the A8 is EUR 90,600, with the A8 L starting at EUR 94,100.

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