California and Arizona aren’t the only hotbeds for autonomous car testing in the US. Other states are trying to get in on the action, and Audi‘s eager to stake an early claim.
Audi became the first automaker to receive a permit for testing self-driving cars in New York. The Empire state started accepting requests in May, and Audi’s already set to roll out its first autonomous test in Albany in mid-June, near the State Capitol.
Audi’s previous efforts in semi-autonomy don’t have the crazy lidar-based setups you see on other vehicles, and that’s unlikely to change as it intends on packing this tech into its flagship sedan in the near future.
Audi’s autonomous driving system will be SAE Level 3, which means the system will both control the vehicle and monitor the environment. However, controls can still fall back onto the driver at a moment’s notice. For Audi, its car will be built to drive autonomously at highway speeds under certain conditions. Out of an abundance of caution, there will be two engineers in the vehicle to make sure everything is hunky-dory.
It makes sense that Audi is testing Level 3 autonomous driving in New York. Earlier this year,that Audi’s next-generation A8 flagship sedan will be capable of — you guessed it — SAE Level 3 autonomous driving. It’s believed to be a bit more fleshed out than Tesla’s Autopilot, which is only considered SAE Level 2, since the driver must be responsible for monitoring the environment under assisted driving.
If Audi brings the A8 to market fast enough, it will be the first production car to meet the criteria for Level 3 driving. BMW has discussed its desire to bring a to market, and if BMW’s system comes out first, it could leave Audi in the dust.
This is also good news for New York, which hopes to become a keystone for self-driving-car development, just like California, Arizona and Michigan before it. In order to assess the efficacy of such a program, however, it exists for now as a single-year pilot program. State police must supervise Audi’s first demonstration, and if that’s extended to every other autonomous test, it could become expensive for both automakers and the state itself.