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Bobby Car

Text 
Ann Harder

Photos
Bernhard Huber
Tobias Sagmeister
Daniel Wollstein

Audi has brought the world’s sportiest piloted car to the race track – a driverless Audi RS 7 Sportback runs laps around the Grand Prix circuit in Hockenheim at top speeds of up to 240 km/h. Its name is the Audi RS 7 piloted driving concept, known for short among the technicians as “Bobby”.

Illustrations
Steven Pope

October 19, 2014, 12:58 pm. Hockenheim­ring. The Audi RS 7 Sportback concept reaches pole position. 4,575 meters lie ahead of it. It must accelerate to the max on six straights and find the perfect braking point in 17 bends. The objective is to drive a precise racing line on the 15-meter-wide track – in just over two minutes and at top speeds of up to 240 km/h. This is going to be quite a performance, because the car is all on its own. There is no driver at the wheel and no technician on-board.

The car is called the Audi RS 7 piloted driving con- cept, known for short by the technicians as “Bobby”, in honor of Ameri­can racing legend Robert William “Bobby” Unser. He was a professional racer in search of spectacular driving action, winning races like the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and the Indianapolis 500. Now Bobby wants to write history, too – as the world’s sportiest piloted car.

“Piloted driving is a megatrend for the automotive future. Shaping this by pushing the technology behind it as far as we can is one of our most important brand values,” explains Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi Board Member for Technical Devel­opment. Measuring up to these also means always setting ourselves new challenges, like developing a car that can travel at the edges of the performance envelope without a driver; steered only by the car’s technical systems.”

What sounds initially like science-fiction is something that Audi wants to turn into reality – at top speed, of course. The objective of the Audi engineers is to match the top performance of a professional racing driver in terms of speed, precision and vehicle control. The basis is provided by an Audi RS 7 Sportback; 412 kW (560 hp), from zero to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds. “The Audi RS 7 already comes with the necessary power,” says Thomas Müller, Head of Development Braking, Steering and Driver Assis­tance Systems for AUDI AG. “What we had to do was equip the car with the associated intelligence. That means developing technical systems that ensure highly precise orientation and exact steering even at extremely high speeds.”

The technical solution for these demands is a GPS system with pinpoint accuracy, enhanced with special correction data. The additional data are transmitted to the car via wi-fi to the Automotive Standard and redundantly via high frequency, too. In parallel, 3D cameras film the track, while a computer program compares the image information against a data set stored on-board the Audi. This ensures precise orientation on the circuit. Plus, extensive on-board networking coupled with high-precision control of all relevant factors makes it possible for the prototype to drive at the physical limits.

The race track is the toughest test lab, for piloted driving, too. The findings we draw from our testing at top speeds are worth their weight in gold to the production-mature piloted systems.

Peter Bergmiller
Project Manager “Bobby”

THE SYSTEM COMPONENTS
OF PILOTED DRIVING

1Antenna for data transfer
2Antenna for differential GPS
33D camera system, front
 each with approximately 103 degrees
 horizontal coverage
43D camera system, rear
 each with approximately 103 degrees 
 horizontal coverage
5Control unit for controlling 
 the driving dynamics
6Image processing and monitoring system
7Central sensor unit

We are increasing safety on public roads considerably with the intelligence of piloted systems. Driverless functions can, for instance, diffuse critical situations that arise when the driver is inattentive or distracted.

Dr. Horst Glaser
Head of Development Suspension

The development of the Audi RS 7 piloted driving concept incorporated countless findings from previous tests of driverless systems conducted by the brand. Audi has been successfully testing piloted driving in various situations for more than ten years. This includes a session in 2009 with an Audi TTS on the Bonneville Salt Flats in the US state of Utah. The prototype executed an exact cornering maneuver without a driver, tracing the brand’s four rings in the salty lake bed. The following year, a driverless Audi TTS drove the legendary Pikes Peak in Colorado without a driver at the wheel. It completed the 20 kilometer course with a total of 156 bends in 27 minutes. The brand has been driving with its piloted systems on the roads of the USA since 2013. It was the first automaker in the world to receive approval from the authorities in the US state of Nevada to test piloted cars on public roads. Licenses for piloted test driving in Florida and California followed in 2014.

This has enabled Audi to demonstrate the potential of the technology multiple times over. The brand is now going to the limits with Bobby, setting a new standard in piloted driving, “The Audi RS 7 piloted driving concept processes enormous amounts of data and sensor signals in real time and can control gas, brakes, steering and transmission with absolute precision. A 560 hp car is being driven at the limits here by the electronics alone,” explains Dr. Hackenberg.

DRIVE TECHNOLOGY
BOBBY“

1Steering
2Transmission
3Braking system / ESC
4Engine
5Active brake booster

Piloted driving is a megatrend for the automotive future. Shaping this by pushing the technology behind it as far as we can is one of our most important brand values.

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg
Audi Board Member for Technical Devel­opment

Audi engineers have already successfully tested and developed the electronics on thousands of test kilometers. The findings gathered by Audi from piloted driving at the physical limits also flow continually into series development. “The race track is the toughest test lab, for piloted driving, too,” says Audi engineer and project manager Peter Bergmiller. “The findings we draw from our testing at top speeds are worth their weight in gold to the production-ready piloted systems.”

Audi is working hard on future series technologies like piloted parking and traffic jam pilots. For Audi, piloted systems are first and foremost an important technological step when it comes to road traffic safety and one that must be pushed heavily. “We are increasing safety on public roads considerably with the intelligence of piloted systems,” says Dr. Horst Glaser, Head of Development Suspension at AUDI AG. “Driverless functions could, for instance, diffuse critical situations that arise when the driver is inattentive or distracted – quite simply by enabling the car to handle these situations for them. One additional benefit is that drivers are far more relaxed when their attention is required again, such as when traffic frees up after congestion. Then they are fully on the ball once more.”

Bobby has a major role to play en route to this. It now has to demonstrate its skill in front of tens of thousands of spectators at the Hockenheimring. The green starting flag is raised. The prototype accelerates with the throttle fully open and brakes right on time ahead of the north bend. Thanks to precise turn in and a perfectly balanced throttle, Bobby maintains the ideal line. Under braking, the forces exerted are more than 1.3 g, while lateral acceleration in the corners reaches 1.1 g. After just around two minutes, the Audi RS 7 piloted driving concept stops again. One lap of the track has been completed – driverless, at the limit. Audi has proven that top-speed science fiction can become science fact.

THE SENSORS
WITH WHICH “BOBBY” SEES THE WORLD

1Ultrasound sensors at side:
 • Park assist with display of surroundings

2Front-Kamera:
 • Audi active lane assistant
 • ACC with Stop&Go function
 • Speed limit display
 • Audi pre sense / front / plus
 • Audi adaptive light

3Ultrasound sensors at front:
 • ACC with Stop&Go function
 • Parking system plus with front and rear camera
 • Park assist with display of surroundings

4Infrared camera:
 • Night vision assistant with highlighting of detected pedestrians

5Front radar sensors:
 • ACC with Stop&Go function
 • Audi pre sense / front / plus

6Differential GPS and 3D camera system front and rear:
 • Each with approximately 103 degrees horizontal coverage

7Crash sensors:
 • Front protection adaptivity
 • Side protection
 • Rear impact protection

8Rear radar sensors:
 • Audi side assist
 • Audi pre sense rear / plus

9Ultrasonic sensors at rear:
 • Parking system plus with front and rear camera
 • Park assist with display of surroundings

10Front, rear and top-view cameras:
 • Parking system plus with front and rear camera
 • Park assist with front and rear camera