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CES Asia 2015

Audi debuts self-driving R8 electric car at CES Asia in Shanghai

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 May, 2015, 8:31am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 May, 2015, 10:02am

Visitors to the inaugural Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Asia in Shanghai this week were able to be taken for a spin in Audi's new self-driving, all-electric R8 sports car.

The German automaker, which also gave the pre-show keynote address on Sunday night, released its automated R8 E-tron onto the streets of China's largest city controlled by its "piloted driving" technology.

Speaking at the keynote, Audi chairman Rupert Stadler said that "China is Audi's largest single market worldwide".

Able to hit 100 kph (62 mph) in under four seconds, and with a top speed of 250 kph, the new R8 purports to be the fastest autonomous vehicle in the world. The car comes with a laser scanner, several video cameras, as well as radar and ultrasonic sensors that scan and map out the road ahead for the central computer system. In China, the company is also partnering with search-giant Baidu to provide mapping, positioning, and points-of-interest data for passengers.

Stadler said the R8 would go on general sale in 2017.

The self-driving car field is becoming increasingly competitive with multiple major technology and auto companies working on bringing solutions to market in the next few years. Baidu's artificial intelligence lab the Institute of Deep Learning has been working with automakers including BMW to develop an autonomous car suited to China's extremely congested roads, while US rival Google has already rolled out its self-driving car onto the highways of some American states.

Google revealed this month that in the past six years its test units had been involved in at least 11 accidents on California roads, but did not cause any of them. The search giant put the incidents down to "human error", saying the technology was not to blame.

"If you spend enough time on the road, accidents will happen whether you're in a car or a self-driving car," Chris Urmson, head of the company's self-driving car unit, wrote in a blog post.