Audi recently unveiled its new luxury sedan — and it should make BMW and Mercedes nervous.
The all-new Audi A8 will support level 3 autonomous driving, meaning the car can handle most scenarios without driver intervention.
The sedan takes a direct shot at BMW’s 7-Series — the German automaker’s luxury sedan that debuted in 2015 and supports autonomous functions like adaptive cruise control. The A8 will also attempt to rival Mercedes S-Class — the world’s best-selling luxury sedan that also comes equipped with self-driving features.
Audi’s luxury sedan has slipped behind the 7-Series and S-Class on global sales, but the automaker will aim to boost its outlook with the tech-savvy A8.
Scroll down for a closer look at the new luxury sedan:
The Audi A8 is the latest iteration in Audi's sedan line-up, which includes the A4 and A5. It will begin rolling out in 2018, but it's not expected in showrooms until 2019.
First, some basics. Audi will offer three petrol, two diesel, and one plug-in hybrid unit for the sedan. The gasoline and diesel options will feature mild hybrid tech to help improve mileage.
The A8 will come equipped with radar and ultrasonic sensors, a forward-facing camera, and laser scanner to support level 3 autonomy. Combined, the sensors will allow the A8 to drive in traffic on highways, even at slow speeds (55km/h).
Audi says the driver 'no longer needs to monitor the car permanently.' From a technological perspective, the driver could focus his or her attention on something else, like watching TV, but legally that isn't permitted.
The A8 can also park itself. The driver can stand outside the car and monitor it on the myAudi app as it parks in a regular spot or parking garage.
From a self-driving perspective, the Mercedes S-Class still appears to have the A8 beat.
The S-Class supports the same functionality as the new Audi sedan -- active cruise control and lane-keep assist -- but also supports some other key functions, like the ability to help the driver change lanes safely.
The 7-Series, on the other hand, aligns closely with the A8 from looking at the spec sheet.
It's not worth splitting hairs on which sedans qualify as level 2 or level 3 autonomous systems. All three are designed to take the onus off the driver on highways, but still require a human touch on urban roads with signs and traffic lights. Each sedan shows the German rivals are serious about achieving full autonomy in production vehicles.
In that light, Audi is giving its flagship sedan an upgrade to bring it up to speed with the rest of the competition.
Audi's revamped sedan is high-tech beyond its self-driving capabilities. It comes with built-in, 4G LTE connectivity...
...Which helps support fast, vehicle-to-vehicle communication. The Audi can draw information from traffic signs or hazard information and relay that information to other Audi vehicles on the road.
That functionality would provide drivers with updates about congestion or poor conditions, allowing them to change course in advance. It also helps the A8's autonomous driving capabilities by allowing it to prepare for a slow-down or difficult traffic conditions.
The car comes with an active suspension system. The driver could choose to raise the A8 for a classic sedan driving experience or lower it for a more sporty driving vibe.
The car also comes with dynamic steering that will automatically adjust the sedan on winding routes. That should improve handling, allowing for a smoother drive.
Inside, the sedan features an 10.1-inch touchscreen that blends seamlessly into the black dashboard when it's turned off.
The driver can control the infotainment system using the sedan's built-in voice control, but the touch screen also supports text inputs.
Audi says the rear is designed to resemble a 'lavish, spacious lounge.' Owners can opt to purchase the 'relaxation seat' that comes with a footrest.
The seat and footrest come with massage capabilities so you can get a back rub and foot rub at the same time.
Passengers can control the seats' massage capabilities using a touchscreen display that's built into the arm rest. Passengers can also control the air conditioning or heat, adjust ambient lighting, or recline the seat using the OLED screen.
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