Google has been the only company with the right to test self-driving cars in Nevada since June of 2011, but now it has some company on the road.
Audi announced yesterday it has secured the second license from the western state to test autonomous vehicle technology, but its vision of the self-driving car is different from Google's.
CEO Larry Page says Google wants to cut the labor of driving and the cost of building parking lots and garages.
Audi's vision is of cars equipped with "auto-pilot," making driving easier and less demanding, but still requiring someone behind the wheel, much like on a jetliner.
"Audi envisions motorists enjoying the convenience of allowing the car to handle mundane stop-and-go driving conditions, for example, while still being able to take control of the car when needed," it said in a press release.
Other automakers are getting into the game, all taking varying approaches. Toyota is unveiling its self-driving car at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. Based on a video clip, it looks a lot like what Google is doing.
The 2014 S-Class can drive itself under certain conditions, Mercedes-Benz says, but the automaker limited its capability in the face of liability and insurance questions.
Volvo's take is rather different, focusing on improving communication between cars to create "road trains" — convoys of cars that can improve fuel-efficiency, safety, and allow drivers to relax behind the wheel.
We wrote in October that driving Audi's 2013 S8 with adaptive cruise control made us ready to try a self-driving car. With the newly won right to tests its technology in Nevada, the German automaker looks like its getting ahead of the game.
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