Automotive component-supplier Delphi is about to launch a self-driving Audi SUV on a 3,500-mile journey from San Francisco to New York.
The trip, which will begin March 22 near the Golden Gate Bridge, will end in New York City. It is the first cross-country trip by an autonomous vehicle, and arguably the longest anyone has made.
The autonomous Audi SQ5 is making the trip in order to test Delphi's suite of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure wireless communications and automated driving software.
Two months ago, Audi demonstrated a self-driving Audi A7, named "Jack," which made a 560-mile trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Delphi has also tested its autonomous Audi SQ5 in and around Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
Delphi's automated driving vehicle leverages a full suite of technologies and features to make this trip possible. The navigation system, cameras and sensors are all controlled by intelligent software that enables the vehicle to make complex, "human-like decisions for real-world automated driving," the company said in a statement.
Functions such as Delphi's Traffic Jam Assist, Automated Highway Pilot with Lane Change (on-ramp to off-ramp highway pilot), Automated Urban Pilot, and Automated Parking and Valet features will all be put through their paces on the cross-country journey.
There will also be six Delphi engineers making the trip with the car.
"This trip is not a fully autonomous trip. There will always be a driver behind the wheel that can take over in the event it is necessary," a Delphi spokesperson wrote in an email to Computerworld.
The vehicle will stick to the interstate highway system. Delphi said during the cross-country trek, it will be challenged under a variety of driving conditions from changing weather and terrain to potential road hazards, "things that could never truly be tested in a lab."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) identifies five levels of autonomous vehicles, with zero representing no automation at all.
- Levels 1 and 2 are already on the market today and they involve one or more specific control functions, such as electronic stability control or adaptive cruise control with lane keeping. The driver is still fully engaged, monitoring the environment and responsible for driving tasks.
- Level 3 enables the driver to cede full control of all safety-critical functions under certain driving conditions. In conditions that rely heavily on the vehicle to monitor for changes in roadway conditions, the vehicle allows a transition back to driver control.
- Levels 4 is a vehicle designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip. It represents high levels of automation where if the driver doesn’t respond, the vehicle will.
The Delphi vehicle is demonstrating level 3 funcionality.
"Delphi had great success testing its car in California and on the streets of Las Vegas," said Jeff Owens, Delphi's chief technology officer. "Now, it's time to put our vehicle to the ultimate test by broadening the range of driving conditions. This drive will help us collect invaluable data in our quest to deliver the best automotive grade technologies on the market."