A mere eight months after Nevada first licensed Google to test autonomous vehicles on its public roads, the state has granted Audi a permit as well. Including automotive supplier Continental, licensed just last month, brings the total of licensed companies to three (Audi will be recognized as being the first automotive original equipment manufacturer to obtain the special license).

Audi is no stranger to autonomous technology, as it was the automaker's TT research car, developed with the Volkswagen Group ERL and Stanford University, which autonomously completed the 12.42-mile Pikes Peak climb in just 27 minutes in late 2010.

While Audi's next autonomous research car, reportedly an A7, won't be climbing mountains it will be capable of "piloted" parking and driving. The automaker is discussing an autopilot-like system at CES this year. The envisioned system would see operators allowing the vehicle to handle mundane or challenging tasks (like stop-and-go driving or parking in tight spots), while still letting the human take control when needed.

Like the vehicles from Google and Continental, it is expected that Audi's autonomous cars will be identified with a special red license plate bearing an infinity sign.
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Nevada grants Audi the first automaker permit to operate autonomous vehicles on public roads

• Audi gets second-ever license from the state to test Audi piloted driving
• Audi piloted driving and parking technology will be a focus at 2013 CES
• Audi has been an autonomous driving pioneer through work by its Electronics Research Lab in Silicon Valley and Stanford University

The State of Nevada issued to Audi only the second license allowing the testing of autonomous vehicles on the state's public roads. This makes Audi the first automotive original equipment manufacturer to obtain this special permit. The first license went to technology giant Google.

Audi has been at the forefront of autonomous driving research. Among the early highlights was the 2010 achievement of the Autonomous Audi TTS Pikes Peak research car on the legendary Pikes Peak Hill Climb course in Colorado. That Audi research car, developed jointly by the Volkswagen Group Electronics Research Lab in Silicon Valley and Stanford University, autonomously completed the 156-turn, 12.42-mile Pikes Peak circuit in just 27 minutes.

Today, Audi defines autonomous driving capabilities in terms of piloted parking and piloted driving. The term "piloted" is used advisedly, as Audi envisions motorists enjoying the convenience of allowing the car to handle mundane stop-and-go driving conditions, for example, while still being able to take control of the car when needed. In this way, the technology is similar to auto-pilot systems found on jetliners. Likewise, autonomous, or piloted parking, would let future Audi models park safely without a driver at the wheel in in tight parking spaces.

Audi will provide updates on strategies involving its Audi piloted driving and piloted parking technologies at the Audi booth during the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show Jan. 8-11, 2013.