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Can an autonomous car be considerate? Audi says so

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Mark Schiefelbein/AP/File

(Read caption) The nameplate of an Audi Connected Mobility concept car is seen on display at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition in Beijing (April 26, 2016).

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Although there are some stereotypes that might suggest otherwise, cars are only as considerate as their drivers—even the autonomous ones if they're Audis.

The German automaker's next-generation A8 is set to debut a fully autonomous mode when it hits the market next year. In the meantime, Audi has been testing an A7 equipped with the technology on roads in its home country. The biggest recent development, Audi said in a press release, is that the cars are learning to be more considerate of other drivers.

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Just how is that possible? Audi says it refers to the test car codename "Jack," which uses processors and sensors to keep tabs on what's going on around the vehicle. What makes Jack especially unique is that it can calculate upcoming maneuvers in advance.

That means that Jack can watch other drivers on the road and adapt to a situation as needed, like when merging onto a highway filled with other cars. For instance, Audi says that when Jack passes trucks on German autobahns, the A7 gives them a wider berth than it does passenger cars. And, just like humans (at least those who drive well), Jack activates the turn signal and moves closer to lane markings prior to executing a lane change.

Check out this video to see Jack in action. It appears that Audi's autonomous mode allows the driver to let go of the steering wheel for one minute, and it uses a lightbar at the base of the windshield to indicate its mode. The system is activated by a pair of buttons on the steering wheel, and the car in the video, at least, can show video on the center screen while driving autonomously. We suspect that feature won't make it to production.

This article first appeared at MotorAuthority.


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