Audi’s A8 won’t be self-driving

Legal hurdles mean Audi’s flagship limousine won’t have self-driving tech in this generation, and what this means for Singapore

Ingolstadt, Germany

Audi’s flagship luxury limousine, the A8, will not be receiving self-driving technology in its current iteration.

As first reported to Automotive News Europe, the timeline is such that even if self-driving tech is approved right now, it’s already too late for the A8 to incorporate into its makeup.

First launched in 2017, the car is due for its mid-life facelift very shortly, but at its debut, it was touted as the first full-production machine to have Level 3 autonomous capability (supervised by human, with the car self-driving).

Audi’s AI tech meant you would press this Audi AI button and have the car drive itself

This comes as no surprise, since carmakers – including Audi – have said that current ‘self-driving’ systems, where the car manages the distance, speed, and steering under human supervision (aka Level 2 autonomy, with a human still responsible), could easily be scaled up to complete self-driving.

“Currently, there is no legal framework for Level 3 automated driving and it is not possible to homologate such functions anywhere in the world in a series production car,” Audi’s head of technical development, Hans-Joachim Rothenpieler told Automotive News Europe.

Audi Singapore’s then managing director, Jeff Mannering, told us the same thing back in 2018 at the A8’s debut at the Singapore Motorshow, where Audi showcased its time-saving future technologies, including autonomous driving. He said, “With the A8, autonomous driving is already a reality, but whether or not you’ll be allowed to do it is the question.”

The crux of the matter is a legal one – ANE reports that even now, three years after the car’s debut, the European legal framework for autonomous driving is still to be decided. A CNET report suggests that Audi would have been held liable for any accidents with the autonomous drive system in place.

In fact the (legal) writing is already on the wall with Tesla facing lawsuits in the US with a ‘whose fault is it’ blame game on its Autopilot system, which legally is still a Level 2 system, despite the company’s marketing claims.

What does this mean for your dream of pressing a button and leaving the machine to deal with other drivers on your commute home?

Singapore has been doing lots of research in autonomous vehicles, with many trials and testing areas, but these are mostly for public transport purposes. The AVs we’ve seen on the road have been on R&D plates.

So currently, there also no legal framework for self driving passenger cars yet. Privately-owned passenger cars are never a priority for anything here, and with the rest of the world unable to resolve the blame game of self-driving, and we don’t think there will be any time soon.

That’s a pity, as the A8 is a tech powerhouse. Launched in 2017 and tested by both at home and abroad, is one of the most advanced on the market even without factoring in the (now cancelled) autonomous driving features.

about the author

Derryn Wong
Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats.