We (well, some of us) await the autonomous auto that leaves the driving to a robot, such as not to distract us from twittering and uploading pictures of our cats to our facebookies. That technology is not quite there yet. Volkswagen however thinks “an important milestone on the path towards fully automatic and accident-free driving” has been set. So said Volkswagen’s Prof. Dr. Jürgen Leohold at the final presentation of the EU research project HAVEit (Highly Automated Vehicles for Intelligent Transport – who comes up with that stuff?)
Leohold is the Executive Director of Volkswagen Group Research. He presented the “Temporary Auto Pilot” by Volkswagen: TAP can drive a car hands-free up to a speed of 130 kilometers per hour on freeways.
TAP keeps a safe distance from the vehicle ahead, drives at a speed selected by the driver, reduces the speed as necessary before a curve, and maintains lane discipline. The system also observes overtaking rules and speed limits. Stop and start driving maneuvers in traffic jams are also automated. With TAP, it is possible to drive at speeds of up to 130 kilometres per hour on motorways or similar roads. Probably as a nod to Volkswagen’s legal department, “drivers must still continually focus their attention on the road, so that they can intervene in safety-critical situations at any time.”
TAP is still a prototype. However, Volkswagen says it is “based on a relatively production-like sensor platform, consisting of production-level radar-, camera-, and ultrasonic-based sensors supplemented by a laser scanner and an electronic horizon.”
Leohold thinks “one conceivable scenario for its initial use might be in monotonous driving situations, e.g. in traffic jams or over sections of a driving route that are exceedingly speed-limited.”
But then, there could be a host of other situations where such a system could be beneficial: Reaching for a moving object, insect in vehicle, applying makeup, not to forget other personal hygiene.