A self-driving car has hit 149 miles per hour on a racing circuit. Manufacturers Audi say it’s not just showing off, but rather a demonstration that the car could cope in an emergency requiring fast maneuvering.
The test on the RS7 was carried out at Hockenheim, a Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit near Frankfurt, Germany. The track, redesigned in 2002, contains several tight and hairpin bends and, compared with some other tracks, has relatively short straight sections. That means it favors drivers with the ability to corner efficiently at high speeds.
The circuit took the RS7 a little over two minutes. While the Formula 1 record for the track is one minute 13 seconds, the record for touring cars (the closest racing vehicle to an ordinary road car) is 1 minute 48. Audi says the car came to a stop within one millimeter of its starting position.
The car had a computer in the trunk, which controlled the vehicle based on input from cameras, GPS, radar, radio and laser scanners. It’s not clear whether it was pre-programmed with details of the course layout.
According to Audi’s Ulrich Hackenberg, the lap time shows that the car could maneuver at high speed in an emergency, for example to avoid a collision with an out-of-control vehicle.