By on June 23, 2011

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.



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14 Comments on “Veedub Has The Hands-Free Car...”

  • avatar

    “who comes up with that stuff?” Guys like the master himself, Sensei-san!

    I think this technology is great and am (truly) looking forward to it! I don’t think it will be totally practical (i.e. able to do max speed, comfortably and safely) until the cars are able to talk to each other (kinda like – meaning not just in emergencies – TCAS does in planes.)

    BTW, anybody have any video from inside the car at speed?

    • 0 avatar
      Hildy Johnson

      Cars talking to each other? Intriguing idea – and it’s going to be a mischief-making hackers paradise, I suppose.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      Cars talking to each other would be vastly more complicated than TCAS due to the sheer number and density of ground traffic. TCAS is dealing with separation distances measured in multiple hundreds of feet in absolute worst-case scenarios, and multiple miles in the typical case. I know you meant TCAS only as an example, but what you’re describing is a massively complicated proposition from a data-processing perspective.

      In Europe there are TCAS-like systems used mainly by gliders (I forget the acronym for the system) that is GPS based, which is probably how such a system would work in cars. Amazingly, there are concerns that GPS accuracy is inadequate even for the relatively uncluttered airspace that gliders occupy. Some variations on the system actually use two GPS antennas, one at the tip of each wing, to average out the GPS signals and improve accuracy.

      On top of that you’d have each car trying to receive signals from many vehicles around it, correlate those signals with past data, and then attempt to decipher what it all means in terms of car control.

      And it might not even be that helpful, now that I think about it more: the systems would still need to process very high-quality real-time observational data for the 72 Maverick that doesn’t have a transponder, or the motorized wheel chair that just lumbered into the highway, or whatever other unwired real-world interruption which might need an immediate response. (Baruth’s dystopian pop-up silhouettes…)

      Figuring out what the cars around you are doing probably becomes a relatively trivial effort.

  • avatar

    Given the ‘excitement’ I feel driving most Volkswagens it’s really appropriate you no longer have to drive them yourself. :P

  • avatar

    Dear VW:

    We own 3 cars which we intend to keep for a very long time.

    But if you come out with self-driving cars, I promise to dump our existing cars like hot potatoes and buy 3 new cars from you.


  • avatar

    Hey VW, how about you work on making your cars not stall when you press the horn first before you tackle something like this, just a thought..

  • avatar
    M 1

    Given that car companies still treat simple features like a slightly less-crappy stock stereo as a super-premium-priced option, I can’t begin to imagine how staggeringly expensive a self-driving system will be when it finally becomes available in 2041.

    In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s cheaper to make all your cars auto-piloted by simply hiring a driver.

  • avatar

    I thought GM beat them to the punch with Daewoo Cruze?

  • avatar

    This will only work about 5% of the time on a VW. Once the electrical gremlins rear their ugly head, you’ll be doing old-school human driving and driving a car with a very expensive and useless option. Unless you want to spend a couple thousand dollars to diagnose the problem and fix it. Here’s an example of a very expensive VW electrical problem –

  • avatar

    “TAP…maintains lane discipline.”

    does this mean that it will stay in the right lane except to pass?

  • avatar
    jose carlos

    Isn’t this the expensive version of a $2 bus ticket? hands free, adaptative cruise, lane departure warning, etc. no, thanks.

  • avatar

    Gee, remember the Volvo last year with the automatic braking demonstration? The one that smashed into the rear of the truck during the demo?. Pass.

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