The promise of Vorsprung

It wasn’t just the Audi A8 celebrating its world premiere at the Audi Summit in Barcelona. Also in the limelight were the innovative systems at the heart of the new flagship, which are designed to take some of the strain off drivers. In the future, these systems will collectively go by the name Audi AI.

AUDI AG (copy & photo)

The Brand Show at the Audi Summit in Barcelona was truly spectacular. Lights, music, choreography: a worthy world premiere for the new Audi A8. However, the focus wasn’t just on the A8 itself, but also on another highlight that forms an integral part of the new model: Audi AI. Described by Rupert Stadler (chairman of Audi’s board of management) as a “technology promise”, its scope extends far beyond the car itself and the simple act of getting from A to B. Audi AI will support drivers, allow cars to adapt intelligently, and create constant advances in safety and autonomy.

In the future, “Audi AI” will refer collectively to all Audi systems and technologies that make use of artificial intelligence. These self-learning, self-optimizing systems and technologies will be able to anticipate what drivers will need in a given situation, and proactively deliver custom-tailored assistance and functions. With Audi AI, Audi is redefining personal mobility in diverse ways, until one day the idea of the 25th Hour becomes a reality.

“The core technology behind our idea of piloted driving is the zFAS (central driver assistance controller),” explained Peter Mertens, board of management member for technical development at Audi. It’s like a superbrain that can combine infrastructure data with data from other road users almost in real time. With zFAS, level 3 automated driving is finally possible.

The Audi Summit also offered a glimpse of other possibilities that will be opened up by intelligent technologies in the future. For example, “PIA,” the personal intelligent assistant, which one day could allow cars to adapt their functions to drivers’ requirements and patterns of behavior by combining various types of data – data from the car and about the driver, information about current and upcoming traffic situations, or online data sources.

“Audi Fit Driver” will use wearables, such as fitness wristbands and smartwatches, to link a user’s vital parameters to data from the vehicle’s sensors. By accurately monitoring the driver’s current condition, the car will be able to make an individually tailored response: if the Audi Fit Driver were to detect, say, increased stress or fatigue, the vehicle systems would adapt accordingly. Systems like these will help make cars into ever more reliable companions on the road.

Another highlight at Barcelona was a 3 x 3 meter arena with a 1:8 scale model of the Audi Q2 deep learning concept. Inside the arena, the model car autonomously navigated a route to a randomly positioned parking bay (represented by a metal frame). It maneuvered skillfully and completely autonomously around other model cars, which simulated road traffic. Visitors could set challenges for the model that could be as difficult as they liked provided they remained within the bounds of feasibility: for example, since the other “road users” couldn’t move, the paths and gaps had to be wide enough for the Audi Q2 deep learning concept to fit through. The concept car proved itself capable of reliably reaching its goal – an ability it owes to “deep reinforcement learning,” a subdiscipline of machine learning. And so the Audi Summit in Barcelona wasn’t just a showcase for the here and now. It also offered a glimpse into the future of the brand and of mobility in general. Thanks to Audi AI’s technology promise, that future is set to become more intelligent by the day.