Monday, November 3, 2014

Audi RS7 Concept laps the Hockenheimring with no driver.

A couple of weeks ago an Audi RS7 did a "piloted" lap of the Hockenheimring with no driver. And once again the media were blinded by the shiny pretty thing and didn't bother to report the real story. I heard people talking about how "driverless cars are finally here" and other such comments. Even the commentary on the day kept making a huge point of how the car was "choosing" a great line in every corner, and how it never put a foot wrong.
Well d'uh. The car was running a software program, nothing more. A clear, dry day, on a grippy post-race track with no other vehicles on the circuit. The car had a millimeter-accurate map of the track in it's software and was using differential GPS to ensure it was at the right place at every millisecond. Braking points, acceleration points, kerbing, apexes - these were all planned in advance. Watching that RS7 lap the circuit without a driver was - in reality - no different to watching a computer animation of the same thing. The car wasn't "choosing" to do anything - it was merely running code. Millions of lines of software doing their thing, backed up by a pair of cameras to look for anything out of the ordinary.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm as excited to see driverless cars as I am to die a fiery death falling off a skyscraper mid root-canal. Yes I understand the day will come when all the joy is taken out of driving because of this technology. Yes I know there are people who just can't wait for this day to come, but I'm not one of them. I do however have some excellent news for everyone in the former camp though. The technology does exist right now to have you be able to get into a car and have it drive to wherever you want it to go while you relax and update your facebook status. It's called a taxi.
If you want to see the whole Hockenheim event, Audi Media TV should still have it available: