Goal: Eliminate Bumpy Car Rides
Project: Audi's Predictive Suspension
Car drivers can't react fast enough to bumps as they approach. The only way to ensure a smooth ride: Enable the car to know (and respond to) what's coming ahead.
The system's camera can spot larger surface irregularities up to 65 feet ahead. When the car meets a dip or break in the road, wheels are cued to intentionally drop or raise in their casings so that the car stays completely level and passengers never feel bumps. The predictive technology currently works in cars traveling at highway speed limits.
1. Develop better cameras
Sometimes the system's sensors can't tell the difference between a pothole and a plastic bag—two very different things. New, more high-resolution cameras are needed.
2. Quicken computing power
If the car's computer experiences even minor glitches, it won't be able to respond fast enough to obstacles on a highway. Audi is developing a faster processor to analyze the data.
3. Lower the cost
The equipment is currently too expensive to add to a car. (Audi hasn't tallied the cost, but given that its A8 L model retails for $85,575, you can expect it's a lot.) Before the suspension system goes to market, Audi must figure out how to build it cheaper.
Audi hopes the technology will be featured in luxury models by 2020.
A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.