Autonomous cars don’t have to mean the end of everything fun, just ask Audi. The Germans used their engineering prowess to create a special autonomous RS 7 prototype called “Robby.” The car was then set loose on Sonoma Raceway as a demonstration of how far the company has come on the technology, which it calls “piloted driving.”
The modified car was packing some serious heat with a peak output of 560 horsepower, plus a weight reduction of 882 pounds. Of course, the autonomous drive equipment adds even more weight to the car, but the savings almost evened things out.
Thanks to the onboard systems, the car was able to whip around Sonoma over and over in essentially flawless laps. Its best lap time was 2:01.01 minutes. The technology was showcased to a variety of politicians and regulators from around the United States who were on hand to witness the event, proving just how capable autonomous drive cars can be.
Audi has been pushing the envelope for autonomous drive technology, not because it things anyone wants to sit in a car while flawlessly circling a track, but instead to ensure the onboard systems perform as intended in the most intense road scenarios.
Earlier in 2015, the automaker used an A7 called “Jack” to show that an autonomous vehicle could safely travel on public roads over a long distance. The car set out from Silicon Valley and journeyed over 560 miles to Las Vegas, Nevada. The same technology has been successfully used on German roads and in heavy congestion in the Shanghai area.
Anyone who questions the viability of autonomous vehicle technology isn’t paying attention to critical tests like this. Audi certainly isn’t the only automaker who is pursuing a fully-autonomous car that would be available to consumers in the near future. While Google and others are imagining some rather boring versions of the technology, at least Audi seems to be injecting some level of excitement into the mix.