While Tesla chief Elon Musk believes one of its fully autonomous cars will drive across the US unassisted within 2-3 years, Audi isn't so optimistic about autonomous vehicles.
Recently speaking with Car and Driver, Audi USA president Scott Keogh revealed his belief that we won't see entirely autonomous vehicles on the market for over 10 years, even later than Nissan's goal of launching a self-driving model in 2020.
“It’s a definition problem. If the definition is, I leave my home, I press a button and that car will take me to wherever I want to go, no hands on the wheel, completely autonomously, then it’s not going to happen for a long time. From my point of view, ten-plus years,” Keogh said.
According to Audi, different levels of autonomy will arrive in the coming years before a car that can safely drive itself unassisted and anywhere. Keogh believes that initially, autonomous cars will begin driving in specially-designed areas that have been completely mapped out in urban centres.
After that, “the second one is what you see with Audi piloted driving, adaptive cruise control that gets better and better with every generation. You see that in the marketplace now. Then we’re launching traffic-jam assist with the Q7 and A4 which works up to 37 mph and is handling autonomous driving, but every 15 seconds you need to grab the wheel to prove you’re still awake. If the road isn’t lined, if the sensors aren’t reading, then you’re going to have to take control.”
Audi believes that one of the hardest things for a self-driving car to do will be how to interpret intersections without traffic lights, particularly four-way stop intersections in the U.S. which currently rely on human interaction between drivers to safely navigate.
To some, it'll be a welcome relief that autonomous cars are still quite a few years away. To early adopters, you'll just have to be patient.