The weather in China’s sprawling metropolis of Shanghai is oppressive and muggy. On the city highway, the cars snake their way slowly in convoy toward the Pudong district – i.e. directly into the Manhattan of Shanghai. The on-ramp spirals upward into the sky to reach the bridge that stretches more than 400 meters over the Huangpu River. Right in the midst of it all is a white Audi A7 Sportback, known as “Kong Ming”. At the steering wheel is Thomas Müller, Head of Development Brake/Steering/Driver Assistance Systems at AUDI AG. We are on a test drive to check the capabilities of piloted driving in congested traffic. Will the Audi prototype pass this endurance test in the Asian city?
As soon as the car reaches the straight, a white display lights up in the cockpit: “Piloted Driving available”. Müller pushes an inconspicuous button on the steering wheel, takes his hands off the wheel, his feet off the pedals and settles down in his seat. The engineer has a satisfied smile on his face. The green light framing the speedometer and rev counter signals to the driver that the electronics have everything under control. For a moment, as a passenger, it’s a strange feeling to experience the Audi A7 Sportback driving on its own. However, the unpleasant sensation quickly transforms into fascinated amazement. The steering wheel turns by itself, keeping the A7 Sportback safely on track, while the car maintains the right distance to the vehicle in front at all times.