Taking one more step on the road to autonomous autos, Audi has just unleashed its latest piloted driving machine on the challenging road course at Sonoma Raceway in Northern California. Nicknamed Robby because of its clear kinship with Bobby -- an earlier Audi RS 7 self-driving prototype that set a world record for blazing around Germany's famed Hockenheim circuit in excess of 140 mph earlier this year -- this revamped tester also is fitted with a 560-horsepower twin-turbo V8 but is 882 pounds lighter, making it faster and more agile. 

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"In Sonoma we brought the Audi RS 7 piloted driving concept lap after lap to the physical limit," said Thomas Müller, Head of Development for Braking, Steering and Driver Assistance Systems, Audi AG. "The car reached lap times that were better than those of some experienced sport riders." The RS 7 prototype required only 2:01.01 minutes to set its best lap time at the 2.5-mile course. As with its predecessor, Robby's on-board sensors allow it to precisely handle all acceleration, braking and steering functions with uncanny accuracy and reliability. 

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While not quite ready to fully deploy this comprehensive level of at-the-limit autonomy, Audi has confirmed that its initial stage, known as Traffic Jam Pilot, will be offered on the next-gen A8 that’s due to arrive sometime in 2017. Demonstrated in May on an R8 e-tron variant in Shanghai at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show Asia, the package leverages Audi's existing driver-assist technology with upgraded elements. Traffic Jam Pilot will be able to take over operation under congested highway conditions at speeds between 0-40 mph and then prompt the driver to take command when traffic frees up.

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