More than a dozen companies, ranging from Toyota and GM to Google, are developing self-driving technology, but automaker Audi has taken a particularly interesting path.
Instead of taking the wheel out of the driver's hands during normal operations, Audi is focusing more on eliminating mundane tasks such as driving in heavy traffic or finding a parking space in a public garage.
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, Audi plans to demonstrate updates to the autonomous automobile system it first showed at the 2013 CES show.
Like most autonomous technologies, Audi's self-driving car uses proximity sensing equipment and cameras to compare its own location to objects around it.
The Audi technology works through a mobile app. A driver exits the car at the entrance to a parking garage, then simply touches the app on a mobile device so the driverless car can scour the garage for an open space. It then parks itself.
When the driver returns, he or she simply pushed the app again and like a valet parking, the car returns to the entrance.
"We called it piloted driving and parking. It's envisioned that car will drive around looking for a spot," said Brad Stertz, a spokesman for Audi USA. "Our philosophy is that drivers still need to be in charge of the car."
Audi is also working on traffic-jam assist technology that would take over for drivers in heavy traffic - the most mundane type of driving.
"It's autonomous driving at low, traffic jam speeds - 30 to 40mph," Stertz added. "We haven't demonstrated that yet, but that's what we're working on."
Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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