The thrill of watching the world’s best drivers competing is unlikely to be phased out by computers, but the world of binary is having a go anyway – and it’s really not holding any punches.
GTSpirit has uploaded a YouTube video that shows an Audi RS7 decked out with clever computer bits lapping the German circuit of Hockenheimring at up to speeds of 120mph with nobody at the wheel.
Suffice to say, the computerised driver would leave most of us in a cloud of dust.
Although the boot looks like a Maplins store room, Audi says the self-driving element can be added to any car with a few ‘minor tweaks’. Audi also claims that its creation can ‘lap any race track (nearly) as fast as a professional driver’.
All it takes for the Audi RS7 to learn a circuit is about 10 laps, at which point it can go around it until the wheels fall off or it runs out of fuel. It does, however, need some manual input if conditions change such as the heavens opening.
The RS7 Piloted Driving Concept – to give it its full name – was able to beat the editor of GTSpirit, who lapped the track in 1:59, by just two seconds.
Even then the system was only performing at at 90 per cent capacity – at the full peak of its powers, Audi says, the strength of acceleration and braking is increased so it would have been even faster.
Various gizmos allow the autonomous Audi to do its thing, including ultrasonic sensors, front, rear and top-view 3D cameras, front and rear radar sensors, crash sensors and an infrared camera with night vision assistance. Self-driving is initiated by pressing a button where the front cup holders used to be.
Audi has been pushing the self-driving envelope in recent years. It sent a TTS up the legendary Pikes Peak hill climb without any driver input whatsoever, a task that took 27 minutes – 19 minutes slower than the current world record by Sebastien Loeb
Given that cars like the Mercedes GLA can already brake and accelerate automatically, while the forthcoming Tesla Model D can park itself in a garage, self-driving is nothing new. But there’s a gulf of difference between the confines of an empty track and a hazardous city with millions or cars and people.
It’s no wonder, then, manufacturers and experts believe fully autonomous cars are at least five years away, giving us plenty of time to wonder if our days of driving are well and truly numbered?