The battle to be the first with the worlds most high-tech car is one that almost every car company is part of, and today in Barcelona Audi revealed their next generation Audi A8 – describing it as “the first production automobile in the world to have been developed for highly automated driving”.

No, its not a self-driving car. But it may as well be. The production line, the car itself and the technology on board will roll out gradually from 2018 as it meets the standards and expectations of both regulators and consumers.

A flowing design gives the new A8 the same design styles as recent Audi vehicles, though overall it is the start of a whole new design era for the brand.

Inside the cabin takes that luxury to the next level, with the passenger seat coming in four options, including a massaging footrest!

In the centre of the rear seats, is a control centre for things like lighting, massage as well as a separate phone system for private phone calls – you don’t want your driver to have make all the calls for you?

Up front, minimalism is the key. Almost straight lines across the cabin, and a new instrument panel is lacking buttons, replaced by a 10.1 inch touchscreen which looks like a black panel when it’s not on.


So, what of all this autonomous driving guff? Audi says the car is developed specifically for highly automated driving.  Audi’s Artificial Intelligence engine in the car takes charge of driving in slow moving traffic up to 60km and hour, on freeways where a physical barrier separates the traffic flow.

The system manages starting, accelerating, steering and braking, you don’t need to monitor the car permanently – taking your hands off the wheel permanently – with one catch.  That depends on your national road rules. So there’s a while to go yet on that one.

Add to that parking automation and garage automation there’s a lot there.

However, all these systems have been talked about with Tesla, Volvo and BMW among others.  The real challenge is legislation and testing, to see how and when it can work in the real-world.

While there will be two diesel, and several petrol engines available, down the track the A8 will also come in e-tron plug in hybrid also.

All this launched in Barcelona this week – and will be coming to Australia in mid 2018.