A report coming out of Germany indicates that the next generation of Audi's range-topping A8 sedan will be available with an autonomous driving system when it makes its debut in 2016. If the rumor proves true, the A8 will be the first self-driving car on the market.
Likely offered as a costly option, the electronic co-pilot will primarily control the car during traffic jams. Audi expects that its most popular markets will be Japan and the United States because European drivers are more interested in seeing autonomous technology applied to freeway driving.
The system is being developed jointly with Germany's Ibeo Automotive Systems and French component builder Valeo. It will use a host of lasers, cameras and sensors to scope out the road ahead and automatically move the car along in dense traffic.
How much the self-driving option will cost is not known but the system can reportedly be fitted to the A8 without making major modifications to its steering and braking components, saving Audi a considerable amount of money.
Engineers involved with the project say that the upcoming autonomous system is very promising.
"So far, our test car has logged 37,000 kilometers (about 23,000 miles) without requiring human input," said Audi engineer Björn Giesler in an interview with Germany's Auto, Motor Und Sport.
After debuting in the A8, the autonomous driving system will gradually be applied to other members of Audi's lineup.