CES: Audi, Lexus explore self-driving cars


Audi cars are stuffed with technology, with electronics making up “90% of innovations” at the German automaker, executives told a packed room during the CES convention Tuesday.

And, like Google and Lexus, Audi is trying to develop a self-driving car. The company said it has developed a laser scanning system that will be able to create 3-D maps of a vehicle’s surrounding, allowing computers to guide the car around obstacles.

A prototype shown at Tuesday’s talk, meant to be mounted on a vehicle’s grill, is much smaller than the bulkier towers being outfitted on the tops of other driverless test cars.

But, as Lexus officials made clear Monday, Audi executives stressed that they’re focused on “piloted driving,” not “autonomous driving” without any human input.

“Our ultimate responsibility rests ... with the driver,” said Ricky Hudi, Audi’s chief executive engineer of electrics and electronics.

Still, he said he believes that piloted driving “will become reality in this decade,” though he and other executives declined to speculate on a more specific time line. Japan and other areas with crowded downtown spaces will likely become first adopters, they said.

Other tech factoids: Every Audi A8 sedan has about 5,000 semiconductors. The connected nature of the company’s cars -- Wi-Fi-equipped “infotainment” systems, ingrained safety features that protect against impaired driving -- helps draw younger buyers.

About 46% of Audi owners are Gen X or Gen Y consumers, said Scott Keogh, president of Audi of America -- that’s more than other luxury rivals Lexus and BMW.


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