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Auto blogTue, 07 Jan 2014 19:29:00 EST
The closer automotive technology comes to making good on the promise of fully driverless vehicles, the better we see just what difficult work reaching that ultimate goal will become. That's because, unlike so many other in-car technologies that need only integration into a vehicle, truly autonomous cars will also insist on involvement with the surrounding environment, fellow motorists, infrastructure in cities and other communities and making it all work without exposing automakers to law-breaking or tremendous possible litigation. Clearly that isn't all about to happen in one go.
At CES in 2012, Audi told us about a debuting technology that would mark a significant step along the path towards self-driving cars: Traffic Jam Assistant. This year, the German automaker invited us out to Las Vegas to see the jam-busting technology in action, on a relatively busy freeway.
The Traffic Jam Assistant (we're pretty sure that name is still in Beta) promises to relieve drivers from the tedium of slow-moving freeways by taking care of braking, acceleration and staying inside of the lane - all with no input from the human behind the wheel. While still a fair step from truly autonomous driving, the goal here is to give a commuter some respite from the mechanical, time-wasting traffic jam paradigm, potentially opening up a space for productivity in the process. (Audi can't come right out and say that TJA will allow you to use your cell phone in traffic, as that's still against the law in many places, but something like that is clearly on the radar... er... LiDAR.)
It's no secret that a new Audi Q7 is on the way. The replacement for the aging, three-row luxury CUV has already been spotted once, in December of 2013. Now, though, we have images of the second-generation model lapping Germany's Nürburgring Nordschleife, and it just happens to be showing a feature we reported on at the end of July - a plug-in-hybrid powertrain.
Given away by its high-voltage stickers on the window and a spare door to hide the charger - note how both the driver and passenger sides sport an access point - our spies snapped a series of photos, and put forth the compelling idea that the new Q7 would use the PHV system from the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid.
If that's the case, that should mean at least 320 horsepower from a 3.0-liter, supercharged V6, while an electric motor chips in a further 95 ponies for a total system output of 416 hp.
It's no big surprise that Audi is working on a new TT. It's been rumored for a while now, and the current model has been on the market since 2006, making it seven years old. But after seeing only some test mules wearing the existing model's sheetmetal, this is the first glimpse we've gotten at what Audi has in store for it's third-gen TT.
Not that we can see all that much with all the camouflage, mind you, but that's still more than we've seen until now. Spied on public roads being benchmarked against the Mercedes-Benz SLK and BMW Z4, the upcoming new TT is still unmistakably a TT, but looks poised to adopt more contemporary styling in keeping with Audi's latest design language, including a larger grille aperture and more squared-off headlights.
The whole thing looks a bit more like a mini-R8, which would make sense if Audi has called off plans for an R4 sports car to slot into the lineup as well. Last we heard, the new TT would arrive late in 2014, when you can bet we'll read all about slightly more powerful but significantly more frugal engines and a raft of new technologies.