I drove a 2017 Audi Q7 recently, and there was a seemingly minor feature that made me think autonomous driving has a chance of truly changing how we drive.

Where I live, there’s a corridor south of the major metro area that tends to get jammed up at all times of the day. Sure, it is close to the Mall of America, and, yes, there is an airport nearby. It is also right next to the two major interchanges to take you down to Texas or up to the North Pole. And everyone who is trying to get home is always in a big hurry.

In a Q7, you can use the traffic jam assist feature, which adjusts the steering and car speed, braking and accelerating as needed to keep you in your lane, avoiding the car in front and behind, and generally letting you talk to a passenger while it takes care of all of busy work.

最近我驾驶了一辆 2017款的奥迪Q7 ,它有一个看似微小的特性让我意识到自主驾驶可能会真正改变我们的驾驶方式。

我住的地方在主城区的南部,有一条通道整天都很容易发生拥堵。 没错,它靠近美国购物中心,附近还有一个机场。而且附近的两大枢纽可以方便南下德克萨斯或北上至北极点。 每个回家的人总是匆匆忙忙。

在Q7里,你可以使用交通堵塞辅助功能, 根据需要调节转向和车速,刹车和加速,让你在你的车道避免与前后的车发生亲密接触。一般来说,你负责和乘客交谈,而它则完成所有繁忙的工作。


There are two compelling reasons for this technology, beyond the obvious accident avoidance perks. One is that traffic is tedious. I had an hour-long commute in my corporate days, and I’d spend a good chunk of that time pulling forward, stopping, and pulling forward again. It was monotonous. An intelligent, connected, adaptive car should be able to do this for me.

Second, it’s less stressful. Adaptive tech in a car is all about safety, but the major side benefit is that in areas like this corridor of Minneapolis, you don’t have to be constantly worrying that some guy in a 1990 Honda Civic with a muffler that doesn’t muffle anything is going to bump into you. In the Q7, you can trust that there’s an intelligent assistant watching for that guy and also making sure you don’t make any mistakes yourself. You can take your feet off the floor. You can take your hands off the wheel. At low speeds (up to 40MPH), it makes traffic jams less bothersome.

我们要使用这项技术,除了因为它能够明显的避免事故,还有两个引人注目的理由。其中一个是,交通是单调乏味的。 我在工作日每天都要有一个小时的通勤时间,而我花了大部分的时间来向前拉,停止,然后再往前拉,这样太单调了。一个智能的、连接的、自适应的汽车应该能够帮我完成这些。

另外一个原因是,这样压力更小。 汽车中的自适应技术都是为安全考虑的,但主要的副作用是在像明尼阿波利斯的这种通道的地区,你不必总是担心某个人驾驶着带有消声器但又消除不掉任何声音的1990年产的本田思域将要撞上你。在Q7里,你可以确保有一位智能助理可以帮你留心那个人,而且能保证你不会犯任何错误。你甚至可以将双脚离地,将双手移开方向盘。在低速(最高40英里每小时)时,它可以使得堵车不那么令人讨厌。


Of course, we have a long way to go. The Tesla Model S can make all of these adjustments at almost any speed, although I found the Q7 to be a little less jerky at lower speeds, easing me up gently as though the car knew I was in traffic. (In truth, it doesn’t tie into the traffic management system at all and isn’t remotely aware that there are 500 cars around me.)

In the future, cars will communicate with each other, and the sensors won’t be quite as important. Every car will transmit its exact location to a city management center. In fact, once that happens, it’s somewhat possible that traffic won’t be as heavy because AI could help adjust the speed of all cars to spread out traffic and (more importantly) reroute cars as needed. In case you’re wondering, yes — this could lead to more traffic lights at highway entrances, which in my area are barely even enabled at all, mostly because they didn’t really help with traffic.

当然,我们还有很长的路要走。特斯拉的Model S可以在几乎任何速度下做所有的这些调整,然而我发现Q7在低速时会更加平稳一些,这样使我感到轻松,好像它知道我在堵车似的。(实际上,它并没有连入交通管理系统,而且并不能远程感知在我周围有500辆车。)

在未来,汽车将会互相沟通,而且传感器不会那么重要。每辆车都会把它的准确位置传送到城市管理中心。一旦这成为了事实,交通将不会像现在这样拥挤不堪,因为人工智能可以调整所有汽车的速度,从而慢慢的将拥堵化解掉,(更为重要的是)可以重新规划汽车的行驶路径。如果你想知道,是的 — 这可能会导致在公路入口有更多的红绿灯,这在我所居住的地区几乎不可能实现,主要是因为它们并不能真正缓解拥堵。


AI that knows about traffic flows all over a metro area, constantly adjusting the speed of connected cars and even adjusting the traffic lights miles away from the entrance for the optimal flow at certain times of the day? That may sound like a traffic-induced daydream, but it’s becoming more and more possible. For now, I just like how the Q7 drives in traffic. And, as a bonus, my passengers were much happier, too.