2018 Audi A8 Packs AI Brainpower For Semi-Autonomous Driving And Trick Electronic Suspension

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When it comes to flagship luxury sedans, vehicles that often come to mind include the BMW 7-Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8 and Lexus LS. Today, it is Audi’s time to shine, as the German automaker just pulled the wraps off its all-new A8.

Audi bills the new A8 as the most advanced luxury sedan on the planet, and we have no reason to doubt those claims. Right off the bat, every single A8 will be a mild hybrid, which means each includes a 48-volt electric system enabling stop/start operation of the gasoline (or diesel) engine when stopped and turning off the engine when the vehicle is coasting (and then back on again when the accelerator pedal is pushed).

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However, the feature that will likely garner the most attention is its self-driving ability. Audi claims that the new Ai is "the first production automobile in the world to have been developed for highly automated driving”. The German automaker is using artificial intelligence, a wealth of onboard sensors and its software platform to power what it calls Audi AI Traffic Jam Pilot.

With Traffic Jam Pilot, you can completely zone out with regards to driving at speeds up to 37 mph. The A8 will take over all aspects of driving, including accelerating, braking and steering. Amazingly, Audi brazenly talks up the feature, stating:

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.

Given what we know can happen when a person takes their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road while allowing an autonomous car to take over, we’re glad that speeds are limited to “only” 37 mph, which should help alleviate the severity of an inevitable accident with the system engaged.

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It should be noted that the 48-volt electrical system also powers the A8’s active suspension. Similar in concept to a system introduced in the current generation Mercedes-Benz S-Class, forward-looking cameras scan the road ahead to watch out for road imperfections and can automatically raise (or lower) each wheel individually to glide over bumps, minimizing the impact of road harshness into the cabin. The electric motors that raise/lower the wheels can also be used to reduce body roll while racing around corners.

One rather interesting aspect of the trick suspension is the vehicle’s ability to detect when a side impact (from another vehicle) is imminent. In this case, the suspension will raise the vehicle (on the side of impact) to further protect the occupants from injuries by allowing the side rails and floor to absorb some of the force of the impact. These integral parts of the structure are strong than the doors and side pillars.

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Inside you’ll find a cabin that is fit for a king (or queen) with no less than three LCD displays. One sits ahead of the steering wheel to serve as the gauge cluster, a dash-mounted 10.1-inch touch screen unit handles infotainment and navigation duties, and a smaller display is mounted lower in the dash which handles other secondary controls in the vehicle. And for what is likely the most “German” thing ever introduced in a car, check out these automated air vents:

We’d hate to see the repair bill for that complicated piece of gadget wizardry out of warranty.

As for power, A8s destined for the U.S. market will likely come with one of four powertrain options. There will be a V6 that produces 340hp, while a turbocharged V8 will pump out 460hp. For those that like to drive with their hair on fire, there will be a W12 engine option with a stunning 585hp. Also on tap will be a plug-in hybrid with a total of 449hp and just over 30 miles of all-electric driving range (it will also incorporate a wireless inductive charging system).

The 2018 Audi A8 will arrive in the United States sometime next year, and pricing will be announced closer to launch.