Audi has held its first ever Audi Summit event in Barcelona. The key event of the mini motor show was the reveal of the new flagship A8 luxury sedan – and with that, there was also a great deal of chat around autonomy and "the 25th Hour."
This metaphor Audi’s latched onto is fairly simple. Essentially, the time and effort saved from introducing autonomous technology translates into time that can be better spent than behind the wheel. The A8 has no fewer than 41 individual driver assist functions available, including a new Traffic Jam Pilot system. This Level 3 autonomous drive tech will take charge of driving entirely in slow moving motorway driving. As long as you’re in a multi-lane carriageway with physical barriers along the central reservation, Traffic Jam Pilot will let the driver sit back and relax while it takes over.
“The Traffic Jam Pilot manages starting, accelerating, steering and braking,” explains Audi. “The driver no longer needs to monitor the car permanently. They can take their hands off the steering wheel permanently and, depending on the national laws, focus on a different activity that is supported by the car, such as watching the on-board TV.”
"National laws"... that’s the clincher, for now. Level 3 autonomy, which allows the car to completely take over in certain conditions, isn’t legal on public roads in the United States. Or any country, for that matter. Audi will be hoping legislation soon catches up with the technology so customers will be able to buy a new A8 with a self-driving button in the near future.
This tech is another step towards truly being able to provide drivers with a "25th Hour." Audi says this extra hour could be split between quality time (e.g. spending time with your children); productive time (such as catching up on emails) and down time (watching a film or reading a book).
“We will offer services and solutions that go beyond the car,” said Audi’s sales and marketing chief, Dietmar Voggenreiter at the reveal of the A8 this week. “With everything we do, we strive to improve your daily life. The daily life of our customers: Give them additional time – we call this the 25th Hour. Keep our customers connected to the world. Surprise them with sustainable solutions and unique experiences. In a nutshell, we make their lives easier.”
The firm has even been working with scientists from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute to work out how it can help owners of its premium cars in the future make the best use of this "25th Hour."
CEO Rupert Stadler explained: “We want to know: how do we create true premium experiences in a future of self-driving cars? It’s about making the best use of your time. Our metaphor of the '25th Hour' stands for this great gift: Down time – when you need a break and some entertainment – productive time – when you want to get things done – and quality time – spent with family and friends. Why shouldn’t a car allow all of this?”
While the new Audi A8 takes a fairly traditional approach to car design (there’s five seats and a steering wheel inside, for example) – it’s fair to say the company expects cars of the future to look very different. Indeed, its own car mock-up created for the "25th Hour" experiment features four seats, all faced towards each other, and no steering wheel. It’s early days, but the new Audi A8 provides us with a glimpse of what the future of premium motoring looks like. We quite like it.