In Review

Audi A8 vs Tesla Model S: Which offers the best tech?

New A8 boasts Level 3 driverless systems, but can it rival the tech-laden Model S?

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Carmakers are jumping on the autonomous bandwagon, as consumers look to driverless technology to make daily drives more convenient and safer.

The most recent manufacturer to join unveil a car with driverless tech is Audi, with its new A8 executive saloon boasting autonomous systems that can take over driving responsibilities at speeds of up to 37mph.

It isn't, however, the first to do so. Electric car firm Tesla has had driverless functions on its cars for a few years, starting with its flagship Model S saloon, while over-air software and firmware updates have added to these features at no extra charge.

While the Model S has always been the market leader in driverless technology, has Audi overtaken it with its new A8?

Convenience

Audi says its new A8 will be the first car to bring Level 3 driverless systems to the consumer market, allowing buyers the chance to transfer responsibilities such as throttle and steering inputs over to the vehicle.

The key feature on the new A8 is the Traffic Jam Pilot, which AutoExpress says lets the car automatically make driver inputs "on any road where there is a central barrier between traffic directions".

Traffic Jam Pilot can be triggered at speeds of up to 37mph, but the magazine says UK laws may need changing for the system to be legally used on public roads.

The A8 can also automatically park itself on a road or in a garage, says Autocar, all using a smartphone app.

Tesla's Autopilot offers similar functions to the A8, even though it's classed as a Level 2 system.

Level 2 systems allow occupants to hand driving responsibilities over to the car for short periods of time, says The Washington Post, but drivers are required to constantly "monitor the environment around the car."

Using an array of cameras and ultrasonic sensors, the Model S is able to brake and steer without any physical input. However, drivers will need to keep their hands on the wheel for the system to work, encouraging them to remain alert if a problem occurs.

Safety

One of the biggest benefits of driverless cars is that they can use technology to avoid road accidents.

For instance, the new A8 will be able to lean over if it detects a car dangerously pulling out of a T-junction. If the car has only just begun to merge onto the road, the A8's will lean over to one side - giving it an extra few inches to avoid contact.

The Model S also has a side impact avoidance system, but it functions differently to the new A8.

Tesla's safety feature automatically steers away from a possible collision if it detects another road user getting too close to the side of the vehicle, Electrek reports.

It's a particularly useful feature when merging lanes on motorways, adds the website, and it has already successfully avoided "some potentially serious accidents".

Both cars come equipped with autonomous emergency braking capabilities, which automatically applies the brakes when it detects a vehicle rapidly slowing down in front of the driver.

Audi and Tesla will also update the driverless systems on their cars through over-air updates, with the latter having added a host of new features on its range-topping saloon this year.

However, only Model S cars sold within the last year are capable of these extra Autopilot features and the system cannot be retrofitted to older variants.

Comfort

While advancements in car tech are often aimed at developing infotainment and driverless features, manufacturers also invest heavily in systems designed to improve vehicle comfort. 

The Audi A8, for instance, "uses a front-mounted camera to analyse the road ahead 18 times per second and then prepares the suspension accordingly", Autocar reports. 

Each wheel is given its own electric motor connected to the gearbox and they adjust the suspension to reduce "body roll during cornering and pitch during acceleration and braking". 

Meanwhile, the Model S can be specced with Tesla's Smart Air Suspension, says AutoExpress, allowing drivers to manually adjust the ride height of the car. Selecting its lowest setting will improve handling at higher speeds, continues the magazine, while raising it smoothes out potholes and speed bumps. 

Using GPS tracking, the electric saloon can also remember if the driver changes the ride height at a certain location. The car can then automatically adjust the suspension the next time it passes through that spot, which is particularly useful for those who have to drive over a speed bump on a daily basis. 

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