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What is Audi Adaptive Cruise Assist?

For more than a decade, the world's major automakers have been pursuing the goal of fully autonomous vehicle operation — a car that can literally drive itself. The goal has proven elusive, in part because regulators are not making decisions about how to implement the technology, but Audi is one of the luxury brands at the forefront of this quest.

Audi Adaptive Cruise Assist

As part of the automaker’s changes to its 2021 model lineup, Audi is making its Level 2 “Adaptive Cruise Assist” technology more widely available. It gives vehicles the ability to maintain the proper speed, lane position and following distance on limited-access roads like freeways and Interstates, all with minimal driver intervention.

Audi engineers have been working on this technology for two decades. As long ago as 2005, Audi, in tandem with Stanford University, won the DARPA Grand Challenge for automated vehicles. Then, in 2016, Audi brought Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Level 2 automation to the road with its innovative “Traffic Jam Assist” feature that enables 15 seconds of slow-speed hands-off-the-wheel driving.

The following year in the A8 luxury sedan Audi introduced "Traffic Jam Pilot," a Level 3 automated driving system that gives drivers the option to travel hands-free up to 35 mph when the vehicle determines it is on a limited-access, divided highway. However, this technology, though ready and available, has not received final regulatory approval and Audi has temporarily shelved the system until further notice.

What Does Audi Adaptive Cruise Assist Do?

Audi Adaptive Cruise Assist incorporates the functions of adaptive cruise control, Traffic Jam Assist, and active lane centering assistance. At vehicle speeds between zero and 95 mph, it helps the driver with acceleration and braking, maintenance of speed and proper following distances, and lane keeping and centering assistance. Designed to make long-distance high-speed cruising and stop-and-go freeway traffic less stressful and physically demanding, it requires an alert driver who is holding the steering wheel.

Additional highlights, depending on the Audi model, include automatic speed adjustment based on the speed sign recognition system, and automatic speed regulation based on navigation system data pertaining to the road and terrain. For example, if you’re on a country road and a sharp curve is coming up, Audi Adaptive Cruise Assist knows this based on the map data and will slow the vehicle in advance of the turn.

How Does Audi Adaptive Cruise Assist Work?

The specifics of each iteration of Audi Adaptive Cruise Assist are peculiar to the Audi model so equipped, but the basic method of operation is similar.

The Adaptive Cruise Assist uses a radar sensor in the nose of the vehicle, a laser scanner, a front-mounted camera, and ultrasonic sensors to constantly monitor the vehicle's surroundings.

The "brains" of the system is the central driver assistance controller. It continuously calculates a detailed model of the vehicle's exterior environment from a fusion of sensor data. For example, in the Audi A6, the system draws data from up to five radar sensors, five visible-light cameras, an infrared camera for night-vision assist, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and a laser scanner.

Depending on each vehicle's sensor set, the system detects lane markings, roadside structures, vehicles in adjacent lanes, and vehicles driving ahead. The central controller uses this information to derive a virtual vehicle path and guides the vehicle to remain within it. For instance, the system includes steering intervention so that the vehicle remains in the center of its desired lane. In some models, the system detects if the lane ahead is too narrow to allow side-by-side driving and enables "offset" out-of-lane driving through narrow intervals.

When equipped with Audi Adaptive Cruise Assist, the car automatically adapts its speed to the traffic situation and the route, even allowing for curves. In stop-and-go traffic, the system can bring the car to a complete stop, and depending on the duration of the stop, the car can resume its journey again automatically. The result, according to Audi, is less stressful, more hassle-free driving.

The information in this article is from Audi. It was true and accurate as of May 11, 2020 but may have changed since that date.