The Autonomous Audi TTS Pikes Peak has new, retro livery and a timeline for making a run at becoming the fastest ever driver-free vehicle up Pikes Peak. There are some things the team will have to be careful about.
Unlike other autonomous vehicles which saw a lot of attention a few years ago in the DARPA Challenge, the autonomous Audi TTS is more of a cruise control system on the kind of designer steroids even Barry Bonds couldn't afford. Rather than cameras and lasers providing situational awareness and plotting course, the TTS uses high-resolution comparative GPS to follow a pre-plotted course at an accuracy up to 1 cm of deviation.
To do this, it relies on a pair of onboard computers to anticipate steering and throttle requirements in the course ahead. Variations in vehicle direction due to things like slippery of uneven surfaces are corrected by using the built-in vehicle sensors including yaw sensors and traction control systems to measure the conditions the car is experiencing which allows the navigation computers to make on-the-fly corrections (for those familiar with control systems it's basically a big closed loop transfer function). The only trouble with this set up is the car will be incapable of reacting to unexpected obstacles, say a boulder rolling onto the road or a spectator jumping out to get a picture. Careful spectators.
This fall, Audi will be putting their mechanical wonder, now wearing an updated paint job inspired by past race cars, up against one of the toughest and oldest race courses in the country, the Pikes Peak hill climb; 12.4 miles twisting, climbing, multi-surface roads with the added bonus of occasional missing guard rails. Following that run, assuming the thing doesn't fly off the mountain, they'll be heading to El Mirage dry lake bed to attempt the land speed record for autonomous vehicles, something much easier than the Pike's Peak climb.