Klaus Verweyen was already thinking about the future of mobility when he was involved in the Audi Urban Future Initiative. The chassis engineer considers piloted driving the crucial next step.
“Inspire confidence in new functions”
What does a specification sheet look like for a project that will revolutionise individual mobility?
There’s the good idea at the beginning. Then you have to think about which functions it should have and how you want people to perceive the car and what we actually want to come alive on the road afterwards.
What are currently the greatest challenges for you with the piloted driving function?
There’s a series of challenges. It starts with the environment-sensing system. Then you have to find the right configuration for the function, which takes you all the way to the actuators, in other words the steering and the brakes, which ultimately have to respond correctly and implement the corresponding actions of the function.
Beyond that, another significant challenge is gaining acceptance in the community and from our customers. That’s where it’s important to inspire confidence in the new functions.
How can you increase confidence?
Confidence arises when the functions come alive, for example on the road or race track like with the Audi RS 7 piloted driving concept on the Hockenheimring. That shows what kind of potential this technology has for the future.
“Piloted driving paves the way for free-flowing traffic”
Is the self-propelled “auto-mobile” – in the truest sense of the word – the big dream for a developer?
Yes, at least the automobile that gives the driver the choice of driving the car himself. It provides optimum support while giving you the chance to use your time differently. Of course, that means the functions I mentioned before, like the environment-sensing system and safety functions, need to be working perfectly in the background.
You used to work with the Audi Urban Future Initiative. What advantages does piloted driving have in urban traffic?
Cities are becoming increasingly encumbered by traffic these days and that effects the quality of living. Interconnected piloted driving makes it possible to have free flowing traffic again and it allows more cars to drive in less traffic space. That’s why this topic’s discussed a lot in the Audi Urban Future Initiative.
“A new, incredibly exciting facet”
What personally fascinates you the most about piloted driving?
The technology behind it. The fact that a car can sense its environment, that it’s developed actual sensory perception and therefore can also deduce and make decisions. That’s the final stage of artificial intelligence for an engineer.
Do you consider the piloted car to be the highest achievement for the automobile?
Not necessarily. I still believe that an automobile is composed of many characteristics. But piloted driving gives the car a new, incredibly exciting facet which ultimately results from our Vorsprung durch Technik.
“You have the choice”
What do you say when you tell your friends what you’re working on?
I say “I’m making sure that in the future you’ll have the choice of when you want to drive your car and when the car should drive you.”
What will you do with your free time once you no longer need to keep your hands on the wheel?
I’d like to use the free time to simply relax, like just listening to music. The car is and will remain a sanctuary.
Watch the interview with Klaus Verweyen
Images: Julian Baumann