Alexandra climbs out of the car with a broad grin on her face. She has just blazed through the FAST Parcmotor racetrack near Barcelona at over 200 kilometers per hour. Her driver: Robby, an Audi RS 7 piloted driving concept. “We should stop driving ourselves,” she says with a laugh. “Seriously, that was impressive. That needs to become reality. The sooner, the better!”

FAST Parcmotor Track, Barcelona, November 2015. Piloted driving becomes reality today. On the racetrack, Audi shows that driverless cars have long left the realms of science fiction behind. The participants are trend receivers from America, China and Europe, including Paolo and Albert from the United States and Alexandra and Ineke from Germany. Some months ago, they were all invited to a meet-up in San Francisco, where they discussed the future of piloted driving with employees of Audi Innovation Research in a relaxed atmosphere. Today, they will experience what it really feels like to let the car control itself.

Also taking part in the workshops:

Albert and Paolo from the United States and Alexandra and Ineke from Germany.

In the early morning, the group meets at the racetrack to get to know driver Robby, the Audi RS 7 piloted driving concept. Each of the participants has his or her own very personal experience with the piloted car: a lap of the track, full acceleration, no hands on the steering wheel. The trend receivers take turns in sitting in the front passenger’s seat, some hesitant, some excited and full of anticipation. Robby covers the lap at race speed. He accelerates as dynamically and drives through the curves as precisely as a trained racing driver. Alexandra is enthusiastic: “Although I had expected it to work perfectly, it was still surprising that that it felt so OK. Thoughts like ‘This is what the future will be like!’ came into my head.”

Paolo agrees: “This is the future. It was impressive to be able to experience that already today.”

From the first test drive onwards, one aspect is important for the participants: confidence in the technology. “I remember my first time driving with cruise control. My foot was hovering over the brake pedal because I wasn’t sure whether it would really work. I imagine the feeling today to be similar, especially given the high speed,” Paolo says. Well, Robby is supposed to show today that he can master 200 kilometers per hour on his own. And he can! The test drivers agree that a feeling of safety ensues very quickly and that it is easy to hand over the reins.

From a mere means of transportation to an emotional companion

Off the racetrack, the trend receivers actively contribute their opinions on piloted driving. Albert, Paolo, Alexandra and Ineke discuss numerous ideas and develop concrete visions together with Audi employees. “The atmosphere is relaxed, so creative impulses can be released. You get to know very interesting people,” Ineke says.

With the smartphone, we already have a connected and intelligent assistant. Does the piloted car have the potential to develop into a smart companion as well? And will our emotional bond with the car change when it becomes a living space in which we work, sleep and eat?

“Definitely,” Alexandra is convinced. “For many of us the term ‘car’ is connected with emotions. The role of the car will change from that of an object to more of a service provider. It will move towards personification.” Paolo even goes one step further: “We won’t only give them names, we will treat them like kids. Why? Because everything we own is an extension of ourselves. It will be the same with the car.”

Apropos ownership: Can an emotional bond also exist when sharing models become more widespread? The participants agree: There won’t be a close relationship with the car as an object, but with the services that it provides.

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