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Audi's vision for the future: piloted driving

Audi's piloted driving plan is one of the most promising at CES

Audi unveiled its vision of the future for automotive technology and what it calls piloted driving at the International CES Tuesday.

The German auto maker is one step closer to that reality with an autonomous vehicle license from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles and a new prototype laser scanner. Typically a large rotating piece of equipment on the top of an autonomous car, the Light Detection and Ranging, or LIDAR, system records a view of the car's surroundings that is more detailed and accurate than a traditional camera.

To see Audi's piloted car, watch a video on YouTube.

"When you compare this size to all the other cars with the sensors mounted on the roof you can see how close Audi is to implementation," said Ricky Hudi, Audi's chief executive engineer, during the company's news conference.

The LIDAR system would sit behind the car's grill, but Audi didn't say when the device would be finalized or how much it would cost.

Autonomous vehicles typically have a whole trunk load of electronics in order to run all of the sensors needed for piloted driving. Audi is taking an ambitious approach and wants to fit all of the technology into a much smaller form factor. During the press conference, Hudi held up a Central Driver Assistance Unit, which looked like a PC motherboard, and said that all of the technology would fit on it.

"All of the computing systems you see in autonomous or piloted cars in the trunk today will be replaced by that," he said.

Piloted driving for the masses is still a long way off, but at CES, Audi appears to have the most know-how on the topic and the most promising plan of the auto makers at the show. Like other companies though, Audi has no intention of taking away all of the controls.

"When I want to have fun, I drive by myself," said Hudi.

Nick Barber covers general technology news in both text and video for IDG News Service. E-mail him at Nick_Barber@idg.com and follow him on Twitter at @nickjb.

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