As promised, Audi used the finale of the German Touring Car Championship to give its one-off autonomous RS7 Concept a very public test on Germany's Hockenheim circuit. The result was an unqualified success as the 552-horsepower technology demonstrator performed flawlessly, lapping the 2.84-mile track with precision in "slightly over two minutes" while achieving speeds approaching 140 mph, selecting fast lines and clipping apexes in the same way -- and at virtually the same pace -- a conventional RS7 would with a competent racing driver behind its wheel.  

From raceway to highway

Audi's unique "piloted driving" tester retains all basic RS7 mechanicals, including its 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 and Quattro drivetrain but turns operation of the throttle, steering and brakes over to a computer controller that works in concert with 3D cameras mounted behind the windshield. To orient the car to the track, Audi's system uses specially corrected GPS signals which get transmitted to the vehicle both by Wi-Fi and high-frequency radio. At the same time, input from the cameras is simultaneously compared with a data set stored on board. 

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"The top performance by the Audi RS 7 today substantiates the skills of our development team with regard to piloted driving at Audi," said Ulrich Hackenberg, board member for technical development at Audi AG. "The derivations from series production, particularly in terms of precision and performance, are of great value for our further development steps." 

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Although Audi has been working on autonomous vehicles for over a decade, it first gained the public eye back in 2010 when its Autonomous Audi TTS Pikes Peak racer made a driverless ascent up the famed 12.42-mile hillclimb course. However, that car only managed to reach a top speed of 45 mph. In 2012, Audi became the first automaker to receive an autonomous driving license from Nevada, and last month, it was granted the first such license issued by California. 

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