Image of the self-driving Audi Aicon concept car courtesy of Audi.

Image of the self-driving Audi Aicon concept car courtesy of Audi.

During last week’s International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany, Audi exhibited the new Audi A8 — the automaker’s first production vehicle that permits conditional automated driving on public roads — as well as two concept cars showcasing automated driving systems and artificial intelligence.

“For the first time, drivers will be able to completely turn over the task of driving in certain situations,” Audi said of the A8 in a released statement. “This step is a technological revolution. And with the double world premiere of two concept cars, Audi is also showing how the brand intends to further develop autonomous driving in the future.”

The Audi AI remote parking pilot and the Audi AI remote garage pilot autonomously steer the A8 into and out of a parking space or a garage while the driver monitors the maneuver. The driver doesn’t even need to be sitting in the car at the time. The system can be started using the new myAudi app on a smartphone. To monitor the parking maneuver, the driver holds the Audi AI button pressed. A live display from the car’s 360-degree cameras is then shown on the device. Upon completion of the parking maneuver, the system automatically shifts to park and switches off the engine.

The Audi A8 also fulfills the technical requirements for conditional automated driving on demand in traffic jam situations. The Audi AI traffic jam pilot takes charge of driving in slow-moving traffic up to 37.3 mph on highways and multi-lane roads with a physical barrier separating the two directions of traffic. The driver activates the system with the AI button on the center console.

“The traffic jam pilot handles starting from a stop, accelerating, steering and braking in its lane,” Audi said. “Drivers no longer have to continuously monitor the car. When certain conditions are met, they can take their hands off the steering wheel for longer periods and can focus on other activities supported by the onboard infotainment system, depending on the legal situation in the respective country.”

When the system reaches its limits, the car requires manual driver control again. Because of the legal and regulatory issues associated with this feature, Audi will initiate series production of the traffic jam pilot in the new A8 incrementally, the company said.

The two concept cars that Audi displayed, Audi Elaine and Audi Aicon, reflect the manufacturer’s progress in developing strategies and technologies from the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“Audi Elaine is an electric-powered SUV coupe that in a few short years will make highly automated driving possible — at times even without a driver on board,” Audi said.

The driver will park the Audi in a designated area, known as the “handover zone,” and exit the vehicle. Then the car will drive automatically — and unoccupied — into a multistory parking garage offering a variety of services, such as car washing, fueling or charging, according to Audi. The car’s artificial intelligence will make possible this level of self-sufficiency.

The four-door Audi Aicon, which has no steering wheel or pedals, offers a glimpse into the more distant future. The vehicle uses lights to communicate with other road users, including pedestrians.

“The Audi Aicon supports its surroundings intelligently and uses animations on its display surfaces to warn pedestrians or cyclists of dangerous situations,” Audi explained. “Driving modes such as platooning, urban driving or driving at a walking pace can be visualized. Horizontal stripes of light move from the bottom up when the car accelerates and in the opposite direction during braking. Their speed increases or decreases in sync with that of the car.”