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CES 2015: Audi goes driverless with Prologue concept and A7 road trip

Audi's updated Prologue Piloted Driving Concept debuts at the CES 2015 show, while a driverless A7 completed a 560-mile trip across the US

Audi's Prologue concept has now been updated for the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas with the firm's Piloted Driving technology. It features an autonomous driving system and a new petrol/electric hybrid powertrain. At the same time, an autonomous version of Audi's A7 using the same tech drove almost unaided from San Francisco to Las Vegas.

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Self-driving cars: everything you need to know

Audi's showstopping Prologue concept first debuted in November at the LA Motor Show. Intended to debut the future styling direction for the VW Group brand, the four-seat coupe also served as a showcase for a flagship A9 model that's expected in the near future. And Audi didn't stop there – now it's upgraded the Prologue for the 2015 CES show.

The Prologue Piloted Driving concept is shown at CES in grey – the LA prototype was finished in silver – and is intended primarily to display the technology behind the autonomous vehicle system that we expect to see on a host of future models, including the new Q7. The system uses a laser scanner, video cameras and ultrasound sensors to scan the perimeter around the car and allow it to take full control of driving.

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Changes under the skin of the Prologue, which will eventually spawn a production model, include a new hybrid powertrain that combines a 4.0-litre TFSI V8 petrol engine with an integrated electric motor and a 2.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. This produces a total of 668bhp and 950Nm of torque and is hooked up to an eight-speed automatic transmission. 

There is no indication yet of whether this powertrain will make production in either the Mercedes S-Class Coupe-rivalling A9 or other flagship models in the range, but the provision of power outputs shows it's quite far along in the development stage.

Driverless A7 on American road trip

As another Audi showcase for CES, an autonomous A7 four-door coupe named 'Jack' was tasked with driving itself the 560 miles from San Francisco to the event in Las Vegas, which it completed successfully. 

It used the Piloted Driving system from the Prologue – an evolution of the feature we 'drove' last year in an RS7 set up to drive itself around a racetrack at full speed with no intervention. Audi has now set out to prove the technology has a place in "real world traffic and situations", as shown in this video.

Unlike a previous Audi prototype that was unable to complete the same journey on its own in 2013, this one negotiated motorways, smaller single-track roads and traffic unaided. Only as 'Jack' entered crowded cities did a human take back the controls – and then only when prompted by the autonomous system.

Audi says the set-up is essentially ready to use in its production vehicles with only minor alterations, but it is waiting for global regulations to change to allow driverless cars to be sold.

Would you ride in a driverless car? Let us know in the comments section below...

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