Auto manufacturers are putting a large focus into automotive technology. Everything is becoming more connected and is shifting towards driving being something that just happens, rather than you getting behind the wheel and steering. Like it or not, autonomous vehicles are on the horizon, and auto manufacturers are on a race to the top.
Audi has been working towards developing higher levels of automation to release in its vehicles. They have been diligent with using the RS7 as a pilot; however, later this year will be an exciting time for the manufacturer, as the luxurious A8 release signifies the first Level-3 capable autonomous vehicle (or as Audi called it, "Piloted Driving") on the market—in other words, a car that can do more of the driving workload than what we have on the roads today. That makes sense for a luxury vehicle, especially for a company which is trying to jump ahead in the technology department.
This means that the car, according to Audi, will be able to drive, steer, and monitor what’s going on around it. In the event of required intervention, the car would expect the driver to intervene if prompted, but would otherwise handle most other aspects of driving. Automakers were expected to not release many, if any, "conditional automation" vehicles because no one can seem to prove they're at all safer than no automation.
One of the biggest fears is that drivers will become complacent with Level-3 automation. They might nod off, or start doing other tasks and not pay attention to the road. This, undoubtedly, teaches poor driving habits at best, and at worst can have fatal consequences. Audi designed their automation to ensure that the driver is made aware of the conditions that require a response from the driver; otherwise the car will bring itself to a stop. Audi has not made it clear if the A8 will make these features available at launch, but the car is equipped with the necessary means to do so.
It will be quite some time before the technology encompasses the roadways as the majority. Some industry professionals expect to see Level 4 automation sometime in the 2020s. As more and more governmental legislation is passed to ensure that the industry is regulated, the path to fully autonomous driving may come down to whether the industry can supply the necessary and safe technology.