Audi introduces its semi-autonomous A8

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In conjunction with the air suspension fine-tuned for the A8, the innovative suspension concept delivers an entirely new driving experience in this way. There's plenty of that on the new A8 and it looks cool. While relaxing, a smartphone-sized rear seat remote enables control of infotainment, ambient lighting and the seat massage settings. Haptic feedback is provided to confirm that a command has been accepted, and a variety of touch and swipe gestures can be interpreted.

The system includes the "Audi Al" traffic jam pilot that, Audi reckons, allows drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel and focus on something else completely, at speeds of up to 60km/h, on freeways where a physical barrier separates the two carriageways. The MMI interface uses a new generation of "natural" voice control, meaning you need not stick to a strict list of verbal instructions.

In order to recognise its surroundings when driving in autonomous mode, data from all the A8's cameras, radar, ultrasonic sensors and laser scanner are combined to form an image of the road and traffic conditions.

Audi says it's the first auto to reach Level 3 autonomous drive - ahead of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and, yes, ahead of the Tesla Model S as well. Audi says that it has also designed a sleek roofline for the vehicle, allowing it to achieve a "coupe-like" shape. "To monitor the parking manoeuvre, they hold the Audi AI button pressed to watch a live display from the car's 360-degree cameras on their device", said Audi. Camera footage of the road ahead is used to alert the suspension control units to upcoming bumps, so the dampers can be ready to adjust for imperfections in the road surface in advance of them being encountered. In the event of an imminent side impact at more than 15mph the suspension actuators raise the body on the exposed side by up to 80 mm within half a second. All cars have mild hybrid tech, so can coast with the engine off and restart without a jolt: the system saves a significant amount of fuel in real-world use.

Audi introduces its semi-autonomous A8

The system rides on the automaker's 48-volt active electromechanical suspension platform.

The starting price for the A8 is about R1.4 million (€90,600), with the A8 L starting at about R1.5 million (€94,100). The 282bhp 3.0-litre V6 TDi will be the mainstay of the range (in the United Kingdom at least) with the 429bhp 4.0-litre V8 turbodiesel and a 335bhp V6 bi-turbo 3.0-litre V6 petrol turbo providing a supporting role.

Audi has lifted the covers on its new luxury flagship, the Audi A8. United Kingdom prices could vary, though.

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