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Audi advances autonomous driving by developing a simulator

What is a Premium experience in an automated driving car? Audi is already researching this field in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO).

In the futuristic driving simulator, experts in human-machine interaction analyze, for example, how the interior of the car can become a perfect workplace. The findings help the premium automaker to provide each user in the future with vehicles with an optimized and customized interior. This cooperation is part of the Audi project "Hour 25".

For the experiment at the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart, Audi has specially built a driving simulator that reproduces the situation of automated driving: with a variable interior and no steering wheel. Large-scale projections convey the impression of driving through the city at night. Through screens, researchers can introduce digital distractions, the tint of the glazing can be dimmed, and the color of the lighting and the background noise change.

The focus is on the young participants of the test, the so-called millennials, who were born after 1980 and are considered receptive to automated driving cars. In the experiment, the 30 people in the test carried out various tasks that required concentration, comparable to a driving situation in a piloted car. Their brain activity (EEG), as well as reaction times and error rates, were measured and subjective impressions were recorded.

The EEG results were unequivocal: in an undisturbed environment, the human brain is more relaxed. The light reaching the cabin through the glazing was dimmed, the interior light settings were optimized and digital messages were suppressed. Tasks were solved better and faster. The people in the test also stated that they were less distracted. On the contrary, a “close to reality” driving situation in the simulator required greater demands: in this case, the participants saw advertisements, received information from social networks and did not benefit from pleasant lighting or dimmed glazing.

Today drivers spend an average of about 50 minutes a day behind the wheel. In the project “Hour 25”, Audi is investigating how this time could be better used in a piloted driving car. The project is based on the assumption that an intelligent human-machine interface will learn individual user preferences and adapt flexibly. In this way, Audi customers will have full control of their time.

In a first step, the project team examined people in Hamburg, San Francisco and Tokyo, focusing on two aspects. How is infotainment used in the car today? And what would people like to do with their free time in the car of the future? The results were then discussed with a variety of experts, including psychologists, anthropologists, as well as urban planners and mobility planners.

In a second step, the Audi team defined three modes in time that are conceivable in an automated driving car: quality time, uptime, and time to regeneration. In the first case, people spend their time, for example, in activities with their children or calling family and friends. In productive time, they generally work. In the time of regeneration or rest they relax by reading, surfing the Internet or watching a movie. To investigate these time modes, Audi enlisted the help of scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute. In the current line of research, the team focuses mainly on uptime.

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Automundo is the blog about news from the automotive industry, motorsport and the culture of the region. Director: Diego Durruty.

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