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The Self Driving Race Car

Soon drivers may no longer be needed for race car driving.  Two Audi RS7 performance sedans raced around a track in northern Germany. The car without a driver won this matchup by five seconds.

In its effort to bring autonomous-driving technology to the streets, Volkswagen AG’s Audi is testing unmanned vehicles at speeds as fast as 305 km/h. In these experiments, the car decides for itself the best way to take the corners in its race against human drivers

The map the car gets “just contains the left and right boundaries of the track,” Peter Bergmiller, an Audi technician, said Tuesday during a test on a track in Oschersleben (193 kilometres west of Berlin) with a vehicle named Bobby. “The car starts to think about it and generates its optimal line.”

Auto makers from Mercedes-Benz to Tesla Motors Inc. are developing systems to ease the strain of driving by letting cars park themselves and even take over the wheel in stop-and-go traffic. By showing that computers are able to push cars to their limits on race tracks, Audi is aiming to convince regulators that the technology can be safe in the real world.

If authorities open the door to self-driving features, “the first systems for piloted driving could come to market in a few years,” Audi development chief Ulrich Hackenberg said in a presentation of the brand’s autonomous-driving technology.

There’s a lot at stake in getting cars equipped with these features on the road. Technology for self-driving cars is forecast to become an $87 billion market by 2030, according to Boston-based Lux Research.

Daimler AG’s Mercedes tested a self-driving S-Class sedan on a 100-kilometre drive on public roads in Germany last year. The brand, which outsold Audi last month to take the No. 2 spot in luxury-car sales, is already rolling out an optional Stop&Go Pilot on models like the C-Class sedan. The feature enables the car to steer itself while matching the speed of the vehicle in front of it, including coming to a complete stop.

Both Mercedes and Audi got approval last month to test self-driving vehicles on California roads, to get their German-engineered cars used to U.S.-specific situations including eight-lane highways and traffic lights on the far side of an intersection.  Will the self driving car take off as predicted?


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The New Audi Roadster

The long awaited Audi Roadster has finally made its first appearance.  Audi released the first images of its third-generation TT Roadster softtop cabriolet on Wednesday, teasing buyers ahead of the two-seat model’s debut at the Paris auto show next week.

Much of the new TT Roadster’s technical specifications are similar to the already-shown new TT Coupe. The cars have the same engine range and many of the same chassis components, but there are a few important differences.

The TT Roadster’s fabric roof is equipped with two electric motors that can open or close the top in 10 seconds, down from 12 second for the previous-generation model. The roof can be opened or closed at speeds of up to about 50kph (about 30 mph), Audi said in a statement. Thanks to parts made from magnesium, aluminum, steel and plastic, the roof weights 39kg, making it 3kg lighter than its predecessor.

The car also boasts improved crash safety, although the additional reinforcements to stiffen the body and compensate for the loss of the B- and C-pillar pack on 90kg of additional weight for the base 2.0-liter TFSI version compared with the coupe.

More rigid, slightly slower

To improve torsional rigidity, for example, aluminum A‑pillars each conceal a second steel pillar in their interior, which in turn houses a solid steel tube. As a result, the top-of-the-line 2.0-liter TFSI Quattro S tronic with 310 hp goes from 0 to 100kph in 4.9 seconds as a roadster, which is 0.3 seconds slower than the equivalent coupe.

“The concept of designing a compact roadster following clear geometrical rules formed the original idea for the Audi TT in autumn 1994,” Audi development chief Ulrich Hackenberg said in a statement on Wednesday.

In Germany, customers can begin ordering the new TT Roadster in October with prices starting at 37,900 euros for the 2.0 TFSI. The model will arrive in showrooms in spring 2015 while the higher-power TTS cabrio will follow shortly afterwards.  How will this roadster compete with the massive market?


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Audi’s Sales Increase by 14 Percent This Quarter

Audi has become a well establish luxury car marker and is now become a household name.  Audi’s A3 compact sedan and Mercedes-Benz’s top-of-the-line S-class model helped the German companies narrow the sales gap with global luxury-car leader BMW in the first half of 2014.

Six-month auto sales by BMW’s namesake brand exceeded Audi’s deliveries by 16,997 vehicles compared with a difference of 23,760 a year earlier, according to figures released by the manufacturers this week. BMW’s lead against Mercedes shrank 6 percent to 102,827 cars. All three automakers posted record deliveries for the period.

Audi has been renewing its A3 lineup since early 2013, and No. 3 Mercedes has been offering a wider range of compacts in addition to the new S-class version brought out a year ago. Both are pushing to overtake BMW in premium-auto sales by the end of the decade. BMW has responded with the 2-series and 4-series coupes and X4 SUV and is rolling out the plug-in i8, its first sports car in more than three decades.

“The gap should continue to narrow while BMW should see some support of its own, like the 2-series and the X4 as we go into the end of the year,” Stuart Pearson, a London-based analyst at Exane BNP Paribas, said by phone. “BMW will stay in the lead for the foreseeable future.”

Demand for premium models in China and the United States is contributing to growth at the German carmakers, which are all targeting record deliveries for 2014 as they vie for the global lead.

In the United States, Mercedes was the luxury leader, with 163,107 units sold in the first half of the year, up 8 percent compared with the same period last year. BMW followed with 157,382 units sold, up 12 percent. Audi sold 84,349 units, up 14 percent.  Watch Audi to continue to grow throughout the next quarter.

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New, luxurious, and secure: Audi introduces new safety features

If there were ever a sedan that deserved the descriptor of “luxury,” surely it’s the Audi A8. Particularly in long-wheelbase form. But for many of Audi’s wealthy customers around the world – namely those in developing markets – there can be no greater luxury than security. And for just those customers, Audi has announced the new A8 L Security.

These new safety features include active lane assist, which tugs the steering to bring the car back into its lane if it drifts unintentionally across the lane markings. Also there are night-vision pedestrian detection and a fully featured head-up display. Blind-spot warning also continues as part of the A8 package.

In addition, you’ll also be able to ensure the safety of parked cars, since optional park assist will be available to steer the A8 into a parking slot.

Read the full story here.