The current-generation Audi A8 is almost ready to finally retire after about seven years on the market to make room in the firm's lineup for an all-new version of the range-topper.

When it arrives, Audi has confirmed the posh saloon will be smart enough to meet the requirements for Level 3 autonomous driving, but there’s a catch. In order for this to happen, regulations will have to be changed to legally allow the car demonstrate its entire array of self-driving technologies.

Since that’s unlikely to happen in the immediate future, it means the A8 won’t be available from day one with Level 3 autonomous driving capabilities. The Society of Automotive Engineers says Level 3 refers to “conditional automation” and it means a car that meets these requirements can execute steering, acceleration, and deceleration on its own.

2018 Audi A8 New Spy Photos
2018 Audi A8 New Spy Photos

In addition, the array of onboard computers, cameras, and sensors can work together to enable the automated driving system perform the “entire dynamic driving task,” which SAE describes as being:

“Operational (steering, braking, accelerating, monitoring the vehicle and roadway) and tactical (responding to events, determining when to change lanes, turn, use signals, etc.) aspects of the driving task, but not the strategic (determining destinations and waypoints) aspect of the driving task.”

The driver is expected to take control of the car whenever the situation requires it, while on the superior Level 4 (High Automation) the system will handle this task even if the human driver won’t respond to the request to intervene.

There are six levels of automation listed by SAE: from 0 (no automation) to 5 (full automation). In the case of the latter, the car doesn’t need a steering wheel as the system can do all the work.

In the case of the new A8, the system called “Traffic Jam Pilot” will be functional in "certain conditions" at speeds of up to 35mph and will give “drivers the option to turn over steering, throttle, and braking functionality to the vehicle.”

Talking at the annual press conference earlier this year, company’s CEO Rupert Stadler revealed the A8 will get this feature once the governments in Audi’s core markets will legally allow it. Speaking of which, authorities in Germany are currently analysing the prospects of updating the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic by introducing an amendment to allow Levels 3 and 4 of autonomous driving.

One of the A8’s main rivals, the facelifted Mercedes S-Class, will boast “a very, very sophisticated Level 2 system,” according to Daimler development chief Ola Kallenius. As for the other big German competitor, BMW has already revealed its 2021 iNext will meet Level 3 requirements.

Audi will take the wraps off the all-new A8 flagship on July 11 in Barcelona.

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Source: Automotive News

Gallery: 2018 Audi A8 and A8L body