Future Audis Will Know It's Raining Before You Do

Technology / 3 Comments

Imagine a car ready for any road surface before trouble arises.

In recent IIHS tests, a number of vehicles achieved extraordinary results, from Hyundai to Volvo. American trucks didn't fare quite so well, but luxury brands like Audi bolstered their strong public images with remarkable results. That's great, but constant innovation is required for cars to get to the point where they are infallible. Every manufacturer is trying to do its part, and Audi's newest development is one that is sure to make conditions better to live with. Using Car-to-X systems, Audi is evolving the technology with high-precision swarm data. The idea is that cars will be able to detect road conditions and alert other drivers to slippery surfaces - ideal if you're going for a cold-weather blast in your new RS e-tron GT.


According to Audi, "this technology can detect the tiniest changes in road surface adhesion, upload data to the cloud for processing, and warn upcoming drivers of road ice or other slippery conditions in near real time." Using a patented solution from Swedish company NIRA Dynamics AB, the system uses chassis signals like wheel speed and acceleration. But instead of sending data to the cloud once you've already had a crash or the stability management programs have intervened, this software is always active and can detect those slippery conditions before you even notice a problem with traction.

This data is anonymized to avoid exploitation by the unscrupulous and is combined with that of other road users and metadata like current and historical weather info and then "transmitted by NIRA cloud to service provider HERE Technologies. When integrated with the HERE location platform, the combined data intelligence represents the road network as a precise three-dimensional model." This info is then sent back to cars and displayed on either the driver info display or the optional head-up display so that drivers can be warned when approaching a hazardous area.


For this innovation to be successful, a high number of vehicles need to contribute their data to create this 3D model, and the more vehicles involved, the better the system can learn, analyze, and create maps. Audi says that this year, more than 1.7 million vehicles from the Volkswagen group will be involved, with the goal being 3 million vehicles in 2022.

There are more benefits to this tech too. Municipalities can optimize their snow clearing service in real time and even use less road salt. "Driver assist systems can precondition themselves and adjust to the condition of the road with even greater precision, and the route guidance of the navigation system can take the road conditions into account in order to offer a more accurate computation of the expected time of arrival. Inside the car, control of the wheel slip can enable the development of tire maintenance services, for example, by detecting the level of wear as well as the performance level of the tire."

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