Rupert Stadler, CEO of Audi, says he expects level five self-driving cars to be technologically feasible in the next few years, but many roadblocks remain.
Speaking to CarAdvice and members of the international press at the Audi A7 launch, Stadler said level five autonomous driving systems would be ready "technology wise ... in the next few years".
"There’s a lot of questions that need to be answered" regarding regulations, the CEO said. Different countries within Europe have unique laws regarding self-driving vehicles, as do different states within the USA.
In Australia, some states allow limited testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads, but consumer systems are off the table for now.
When pressed about specifics regarding upcoming fully autonomous technology, Stadler replied, "Level five is a little easier to demonstrate on semi-highway situations".
He also noted "customers would like to enter into the centre of the city" in fully autonomous mode, but this is the "most complex and chaotic situation" and is "nothing easy" for computer, sensor and camera technology to handle.
Describing himself as an optimist, Stadler was confident advances in computing power, data storage and management would overcome any hurdles on the way to full autonomy within the urban environment.
The technological and legal challenges could even be a blessing as "all the new driver assistance technologies [are introduced] step by step, we will see that the pain points will go out, [and] the comfort level for the driver will increase".
This, combined with the initial introduction of level four and level five autonomy on restricted access roads, Stadler believes will "create the [necessary] confidence between people and machine".
Asked if self-driving technology will be ready before the necessary legislation is in place, Stadler said the situation is normal, and allows the industry to demonstrate to lawmakers "what the technology is able to provide or will not", which makes it "easier for them to judge".
Audi launched level three autonomous driving technology on the latest generation A8. Dubbed AI Traffic Jam Pilot, the system is capable of driving itself at speeds below 60km/h, but will only be available in select countries from next year, and will be geofenced to work on approved roads only.