Audi has been publicly, loudly, working the autonomous angle for years - it was working on Shelley, the autonomous TTS that would climb Pikes Peak in 27 minutes, way back in in 2009. Parent company Volkswagen had been working with Stanford University on autonomous vehicles for five years before that, and the same program collaboration would take the lead in Audi's efforts here. Where are we now? Well, a convoy of Audi A7s just drove journalists from San Francisco to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, with "piloted driving in 100 mile stints." On the highway, the "piloted driving" A7 works up to 70 miles per hour and can change lanes, pass other cars, accelerate and brake on its own.

A report in Autoweek says public adoption of the technology will continue with the next-generation A8, which will be able to navigate on its own up to 37 mph, make its way through traffic, find a parking spot and park itself. Over time, capabilities will be added - like a higher mph limit - as the technology and the legal issues are fine tuned. The A7 that just did the SF-to-LV run doesn't work in cities, only on highways, so it appears Audi is kicking this off with the abilities demonstrated in an A6 Avant last year at CES. That car had a Traffic Jam mode that only worked in dense traffic and up to 40 mph, but when in operation, it allowed the driver to watch a movie or conduct a videoconference. We have a feeling those two bits of icing won't be included in the fourth-generation A8, though.

We'll be late to the party when the big sedan comes; Audi says it will go on sale by the end of 2016, but the US isn't expected to get it until 2017 as a 2018 model.

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