The new Audi A8 in Valencia

Intelligent by design

We travel to Valencia and explore the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences in the all-new Audi A8 – the first production car in the world to be developed for highly automated travel

The new Audi A8 Interior

Visiting the City of Arts and Sciences in the southern Spanish city of Valencia feels like making a quantum leap forward in time. This cultural complex boasts some of the most innovative architecture in the world, and since it opened in 2005 it has attracted millions of visitors to its science museum, outdoor art gallery, aquarium, planetarium, IMAX cinema and laserium, among other features.

We arrive in the brand new Audi A8, which compounds the feeling of being in the future. This vehicle is harnessing new technologies to redefine luxury travel. We’ve journeyed here on the Spanish autovia, with the car scanning the road ahead to keep us within the marked lanes, checking for other road users who might be wandering into our path, and even collecting images and data from the road surface so its suspension can anticipate and adapt to the surface proactively. Does this sound like science fiction? It isn’t. In fact, the A8 is the world’s first production car developed for conditional automation at level 3.

The new Audi A8 in Valencia - facing forward

What does that mean in plain English? Put simply, the A8 can take control on multi-lane roads with a central barrier – dual carriageways or motorways – at speeds of up to 37mph where national laws permit (this technology will be offered at a later date). The AI systems – which are comprised of 24 sensors with a 360-degree ‘view’ of the A8’s surroundings and a tablet-sized central driver assistance controller (or zFAS) – will deal with steering, braking and acceleration. The driver can take their hands off the steering wheel and allow the car to move safely with the traffic. AI even monitors the driver’s head and eyes to ensure they’re not falling asleep, and warns when traffic conditions have changed and inputs are once again required.

The new A8 Front wheel and alloy

The new A8 - Rear seat console

The A8 makes everyday life much easier, then, but it’s also engineered to keep you safe should the very worst happen. Those sensors that enable autonomous driving also provide early warning for collisions, and the pre sense 360 system works in combination with the active suspension to protect occupants. For example, if the A8 detects a side collision is imminent, the suspension raises by up to 80mm to ensure the impact occurs with the stiffest, safest part of the body structure. It also raises the windows and returns the electric seats to an upright position to allow occupants to leave the vehicle as quickly as possible.

Fortunately, our trip to Valencia doesn’t serve up any need to call upon pre sense 360’s instant reactions. In fact, the hours slip by quickly as we bask in the park’s spectacular, utopic architecture and design. As the sun lowers in the sky and illuminates the horizon with an orange glow, it is time to leave and begin the journey home. This gives us plenty of time to muse about what the potential developments in design, technology and automation could one day offer the human race. In the case of the A8, its obvious that autonomy can improve the driving experience and deliver a luxurious, agile and beguiling experience which is entirely in a world of its own. Words by Katie Johnstone.


Find out more about the Audi A8