Automated Driving Ups Audi’s Ante on Customer Experience

Last week Audi of America Inc. announced it had been awarded the first autonomous driving permit for the state of California. Maintaining a leadership role in innovative technology has been a long-held, steadfast company mission.

“As a premium automaker driven by engineering, it is essential to lead in technology and innovations, such as automated driving,” Brad Stertz, Corporate Communications Manager, told Loyalty360. “That’s true whether we are talking about a few years or 20 years out.”

Stertz explained that the technology that will appear first under the Audi Piloted driving technology banner is called Traffic Jam Pilot.

“This will allow highly automated driving in freeway traffic jam conditions up to 35-40 mph,” Stertz said. “At that point, the car signals to the driver to resume active control. If the driver doesn’t respond within several warnings, the car will come to a safe and controlled stop and will send out an emergency signal. The next step is highly automated driving at higher speeds.”

Stertz said Audi, along with its engineering researchers at its Electronics Research Lab (ERL) in in Silicon Valley, have been involved in this topic since the dawning of the modern era of automated driving.

“This began about a decade ago with the DARPA Grand Challenges,” Stertz said, referring to a prize competition reserved for autonomous American vehicles. “But the main impetus for this are the related subjects of making tedious aspects of driving far less stressful–so we are focused on letting the car handle function in freeway traffic jam conditions. On the horizon are systems that will be able to find parking. Of course, along with stress reduction comes the benefit of enhanced safety.”

With ERL located in Belmont, CA, Stertz said expects testing to be conducted in California for many years since fully autonomous cars are at least a human generation away.

“In following Audi safety standards and now new state laws, we will have a trained engineer ready to take over at any moment in the driver’s seat,” he said. “We believe that our Piloted driving technology could begin to appear within five years, depending on the status of state and federal regulations governing this technology. We firmly believe that this technology will continue to add greater functionality in the years to come in a step-by-step fashion. This means greater degrees of autonomous driving leading to the long-held vision of fully autonomous cars.”

Customer engagement is at the core of the “Creating Audi fans” mission, Stertz said.

“We believe the momentum we’ve seen in the U.S. over the past five years can be sustained best by crafting an overall Audi experience that makes owning an Audi vehicle as fulfilling as driving one,” he said. “Through customer engagement, we intend to boost loyalty and customer satisfaction at every touch point, even as our dealership partners continue to invest nearly $1 billion on improvements to their facilities or expansions.”

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