The Autonomous Audi TTS completed a course, including 12.42 miles uphill, in 27 minutes -- proving that a driverless car can handle complex driving courses and conditions.
The feat was certified by the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb organizers. No vehicle, with or without a driver, has ever managed to finish the course in less than 10 minutes.
Audi TTS failed to set a speed record but it’s impressive nevertheless. The Autonomous Audi TTS, which is built on the platform of the TTS, features a drive by wire throttle system linked to the 265 hp engine, allowing it to be controlled remotely.
Two computers are packed in the car. One runs algorithms in Oracle’s Real Time Java and while the other runs vehicle dynamics algorithms.
A GPS system keeps the car on the predetermined track. The car was developed and modified by Audi with the assistance of engineers from Stanford University, the Volkswagen Group Electronics Research Lab in Palo Alto and Oracle.
Since it has partnered with top Silicon Valley institutions, the company sought not only to bring new technologies to its vehicles but also to redefine what was possible. This was shared by Dr. Burkhard Huhnke, the director of the Palo Alto, California-based Electronic Research Lab. Dr. Huhnke was also the one who co-developed the Autonomous Audi TTS Pikes Peak.
Dr. Huhnke revealed that the goal has always been to improve the safety of the driver and to save lives through the creation of robust electronics. Both ERL and Stanford have been in the lead for years when it came to autonomous driving research. This included participating in DARPA Challenges that were sponsored by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
The Autonomous Audi TTS Pikes Peak exhibited ERL-Stanford's strategy of conducting research by tiers. The research involved a thorough investigation of technologies that were needed in order for the car to perform various autonomous driving tasks. These included manoeuvring at low speeds in urban roads up to handling the vehicle at high speeds on different road surfaces like challenging courses, an example of which is Pikes Peak.
Research on the Autonomous Audi TTS Pikes Peak project started a year back with the clear direction of employing new algorithms, electronics, and software that can ensure that drivers are able to stay in control, be safe on the road, and be able to manage extreme driving conditions.
As such, the aim of the research project was to be able to have technology that can improve the ability of the driver in the same manner that computerized systems of passenger airplanes help even the most skilled of pilots.
Stanford University Professor Chris Gerdes said that the goal was not to replace the driver but to understand how the best drivers are able to control the vehicle so that a system can be developed that can help the robotic driver, and eventually any driver.