Self-driving Audi makes traffic jams all calm

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Like the intriguingly titled World Series, which isn't a 'world' event at all but a cup for American rounders teams, so too is the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) misnamed.

Held in America every year, the CES is a gathering of technology companies that allows them to show off what's coming in future - big tellys and that.

Audi got involved this year, using the event to showcase its self-driving cars. Now, self-driving cars aren't that new - BMW has had the technology working for a while, and we've sampled it - but what's especially interesting about the Audi stuff is that it's coming soon.

Sadly it doesn't mean your next A8 will take itself to the shops when you've got a hangover and need a Pot Noodle, but it will make traffic jams easier.

Called Traffic Jam Assistant, it senses when a driver is in a queue and goes into an entirely autonomous mode, taking care of the brakes, throttle and steering.

It works using front cameras and eight sensors, so it can detect what's a car, what's a road marking and what's a small dog or person walking in front of the car. Using that data it will track the cars in front and follow them. Yes, that's plural cars: it doesn't blindly stick to the car in front, but tracks multiple cars to paint an accurate picture of the flow of traffic. Clever.

Despite being called Traffic Jam Assistant, it works at speeds up to 37mph; we don't know about you, but we're yet to encounter a traffic jam that's moved at 36mph. We'd like to, though.

The system is well into its development phase, and is though to be on the cards for the A8 as early as next year - around the same time Mercedes-Benz will introduce its own version, called Traffic Jam Assist. No 'ant', see.

We'd have called it 'Knight Rider Mode'. Who wouldn't tick that on the options list?

Meanwhile, Audi also used CES to show off a quite amazing Head-Up Display (HUD) that can be controlled using hand gestures, and that, finally, gives the passenger a piece of the augmented reality action.

Across three displays - one for the driver, one for passenger and a shared central one - information can be passed between occupants with the swipe of a hand. It might get confusing if you've got a passenger who naturally gesticulates a lot, but it's all very Minority Report.

It'll be useful for settling those 'lost couple' arguments too: "look, dear, the sat nav says take the third exit off the roundabout, so it's not my fault! Here, see..." Whoosh.

We've just taken delivery of an Audi A7 as a long term test car. Read about that here...