Audi refines autonomous A7 to drive more naturally

\'Jack\' now passes trucks with a wider gap and better manages merging decisions.

Audi has continued to refine its autonomous A7 prototype, known as 'Jack,' with recent improvements focusing on driving more naturally.

Engineers have been tweaking and advancing software algorithms to make the car operate more like a confident human driver than an overly cautious robot. The company claims the improvements bring a higher level of consideration for other road users, showing 'social competence.'

Specific examples include a tendency to pass trucks with a slightly wider lateral gap, and activating the turning signal while moving closer to the lane marking -- "just like human drivers would do to indicate their intentions."

Selectable driving profiles choose different strategies for dealing with merging traffic, deciding wether to accelerate or brake. The system considers which choice might be best for maintaining harmonious interactions between all nearby motorists.

Aside from the social enhancements, Audi has added a new navigation feature that can compute a route with the largest proportion of piloted driving sections. The company has also pushed forward with vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems.

Some semi-autonomous features are already trickling down to production cars, such as the A4 and Q7, however Audi is still at least a few years away from launching fully self-driving vehicles.

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