Photo: Audi

What can Audi bring to the party?

Technology and Business

Phil Brown

30-08-2019

       

Edging closer to fully driverless cars isn’t an easy task. With a tough global sales market and pressure from governments around the world to switch from fossil fuels, car manufacturers are looking at new ways of making the cars of the future.


In July, two huge names in the automotive industry announced that they were teaming up to tackle the challenge of fully autonomous driving. Thanks to the vast costs and engineering challenges that come with designing fully automated vehicles and competition in the market, Daimler Group and BMW have set out to share data, expertise and the problems associated with driverless cars for mutual benefit and, to some extent, standardisation.

 

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This bold move comes at a turning point for car design and manufacture, with fully electric cars now the favoured option in many 10 and 20 year plans. Adding automation into the mix ups the ante even further, with many roadblocks still in the way - not just in terms of legislation and safety, but also from a ‘consumer trust’ point of view.


Now, Audi have thrown their hat into the ring. They are joining the Daimler and BMW supergroup to grab a slice of the autonomous cake, with a full announcement due at the Frankfurt motor show
in early September 2019. But what can Audi bring to the party? What can Audi add into the equation?

 

 

Audi are already driverless car experts

Photo: Audi

Audi’s exploration into the automated driving world has shown very promising results, with the level-3 autonomous driving-capable A8 turning plenty of heads when it arrived on the scene last year. Audi’s automation flagship is already capable of navigating through slow moving traffic (maximum speeds of 60 km/h or 37.5 mph) on multi-lane roads using the Traffic AI feature but, as with other automated vehicles, the driver’s input and attention is still required - at all times.


From a full-automation and launch perspective, the A8 has hit plenty of snags. It has gone up against legislature in almost every major market, resulting in a stripped-down version launching this year. Despite automation being held back, the A8 is clear proof that Audi know what they’re doing, and have some party tricks up their sleeve.


Alongside the A8 and other prototypes, there’s also the $16 billion that Audi pledged to spend on electric and autonomous driving technologies back in 2016, making up almost 20% of their overall research and development spend between 2016 and 2021. BMW and Daimler will almost certainly welcome an old adversary into their ranks with that kind of outlined spend.

 

Ready to work towards self-driving cars?

Despite the trio being fiercely competitive when it comes to defending their global market share, It isn’t the first time that Daimler, BMW and Audi have clubbed together to gain mutual benefit from emerging tech. In 2015, all three joined a consortium to buy $2.9 billion worth of stakes totalling 74% in Nokia’s ‘Here’ mapping application, a service designed to give users fluid navigation, tailored to their individual needs.


With this high-level collaboration already under their belts, it shouldn’t be difficult for the existing 1,200 engineers from Daimler and BMW who have been moved onto the project to cooperate with the yet unknown number of Audi engineers who will join them.



A tough self-driven technology market

Photo: Shutterstock

The big word on the lips of many visitors to Frankfurt this year will, of course, be ‘why?’. Semi-autonomous and technology-assisted cars have already arrived into the market, so surely each individual manufacturer has their own major driverless vehicle solution under development? Well, yes. But the big threat comes not just from rival manufacturers, but from tech giants too.


VW Group (of which Audi is a part) and Microsoft are currently working hand-in-hand to create driverless vehicle technologies designed to integrate fully into the user’s digital life. Google owners Alphabet also have their own autonomous vehicle programme in Waymo, an app-based taxi service / rideshare / rental service designed to get users from A to B in driverless vehicles. Oh, and don’t forget that little start-up Tesla, who are busy building megafactories in the US to roll out improved versions of their existing best-selling self-driving cars within the next few years.


These solutions are either already there or are well on the way to becoming reality, so the collective reaction from BMW, Daimler and now Audi isn’t just about future-proofing, but also about catching up with driverless vehicle solutions that are years rather than decades away.

 

Will Audi make things easier to reach autonomous driving goals?

Playing together nicely is never easy, especially with such a high-risk, high-spend outcome at stake. It will be interesting to see if three of the biggest players in the world can get past the red tape and trust issues that can with this sort of collaboration. If they can get it together, then the likes of Waymo, Tesla and VW will be looking over their shoulders even more intensely.



Do you think the trio can get it together and compete with the existing market leaders or will the partnership be a damp squib marred by bureaucracy? Join the debate in the comments section below.

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