Audi to tackle Pikes Peak without a driver

In its latest display of Vorsprung durch Technik, Audi plans to return to Pikes Peak — a hill climb in Colorado synonymous with past motorsport successes — with a “driverless” TTS Coupe quattro.

The Autonomous Audi TTS Coupe quattro is the direct result of work underway at the Volkswagen Group Automotive Innovation Laboratory (VAIL) — a collaborative effort set up by the Volkswagen Group Electronics Research Laboratory and Stanford University — to advance car technology.

Now in the testing phase, the Autonomous Audi TTS quattro is being developed for several still-to-be determined real-world driving challenges next year, including a possible drive up the legendary 20-kilometre Pikes Peak Hill Climb route. This will not be a competition run, however, and is separate from the actual motorsport event being staged next July.

Audi says the Autonomous Audi TTS project is intended to explore the best capabilities of current and future driver assistance technologies to help the company enhance the experience behind the steering wheel for future driver generations.

Dr. Burkhard Huhnke, executive director of the Electronics Research Laboratory, says the technology found in the car could help motorists respond more effectively to changing traffic conditions to reduce road congestion and allow better reactions to safety hazards. Huhnke also says the technology could return time to the car owners by taking care of routine driving chores, such as locating an assigned space in a car park.

“We believe that developing a car that can perform as well and respond as rapidly as a ‘professional’ driver, like a race or rally driver, will eventually be able to drive its way around incidents in a way that a ‘normal’ driver couldn’t,” Hunke says. “While a less experienced driver may freeze or make the wrong ‘correction,' the Autonomous TTS would be able to take over or guide the driver to escape from a critical situation. It could also compensate if a driver is inattentive to conditions or distracted but of course, it won’t prevent all accidents.”