That doesn’t mean the technology isn’t advancing at a rapid rate. In fact, as early as next year we might have the first car on sale with “Level 3” autonomous capability. The recent death of driver in a Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] Model S that crashed while in Autopilot mode is a good reminder that autonomous driving technology is still in its infancy.
Level 3 is where a car can take complete control but only in specific situations. Level 4 is where a car can be in control in all but the most extreme conditions, such as severe weather. Level 5, the ultimate goal, is where a car can safely operate without a human onboard.
2018 Audi A8 spy shots – Image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien
According to Auto Express, the 2018 Audi A8 due on the market next year will be the first production car with Level 3 capability. The situations the technology will work in will be some parking situations as well as driving in traffic at speeds of up to 37 mph.
The British publication adds that drivers won’t need to pay attention in these situations, and that Audi will accept full liability for its cars driven in these situations while in autonomous mode. This contrasts with existing autonomous systems, which should more accurately be labeled driving aids as they require a driver to constantly pay attention.
You won’t be able to nod off once you enter a traffic jam in the new A8, though. Audi’s system is designed to constantly monitor the driver and warn them should conditions change, for example, when the traffic starts to speed up. Should the driver not respond, we’re told the car will be able to safely slow down to a stop.