Audi could be the first automaker to hit an important milestone for autonomous driving.
When it goes on sale later this year, Audi's next-generation A8 is expected to be capable of SAE Level 3 autonomous driving, Automotive News reports. According to SAE's definition, Level 3 means the vehicle controls itself and monitors the environment, with the driver existing as the fallback if things go awry.
More specifically, the 2018 Audi A8 will drive itself in "heavy congestion on highway roads physically separated from oncoming traffic," so don't expect it to take you all the way to work. Once placed in autonomous mode, drivers will be able to delve into other matters, because any requirement for human intervention would be preceded by eight to 10 seconds of warnings.
It's a bit more involved than Tesla's Autopilot, which requires a human to take the wheel at a moment's notice. Autopilot is considered Level 2 by SAE standards. Right now, there's no car on sale that meets the criteria for Level 3.
But even if the car is able to drive itself at times, it may not be activated from the factory. Right now, Germany is attempting to change the law to allow Level 3 and Level 4 autonomous driving, but it hasn't happened quite yet.
There's still quite the patchwork of laws in the US, as well, and a national framework has yet to establish a national standard for self-driving vehicles. Right now, self-driving cars only operate in a small handful of states, including California, Michigan and Arizona.
The 2018 Audi A8 should be unveiled and enter production later this year.