Today, new cars can be equipped with such high-tech features as adaptive cruise control, which keeps a safe distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you, and lane departure correction, which gently nudges you back into a lane should you begin to drift over a lane marker. In the future, we’re told, cars will drive themselves, and will do so without distraction or emotion. The world will be a better place, since roads will be safer and traffic jams will be all-but-nonexistent.
In between that utopian view of the future and where we are today lies Volkswagen’s Temporary Auto Pilot (TAP) system. Designed as a research project for the EU initiative HAVEit (Highly Automated Vehicles for Intelligent Transport) Volkswagen’s TAP system gives a glimpse into the near future of automotive technology. By blending adaptive cruise control with lane departure correction, the system allows drivers to reduce their attention on the road ahead. We say reduce because Volkswagen is clear about one thing: TAP is not an autonomous system, and requires driver input to remain engaged. It’s meant to supplement the driver, not replace him or her.
The TAP system will work at speeds up to 81 miles per hour, but it also functions in stop-and-go traffic. It will maintain the speed set by the driver as long as it is safe to do so, but it won’t exceed posted speed limits and it obeys traffic regulations for passing other vehicles. VW sees the system as ideally suited for monotonous driving situations, such as rush hour, stop-and-go commuting or heavily enforced speed zones.
Unlike Google’s “driverless cars,” which remain years or even decades away from implementation, VW’s TAP system uses near-production sensor systems and components. It won’t be coming to new cars in the next year or two, but it’s certainly on the near horizon if the agencies that govern automotive safety embrace the concept.
[Volkswagen, via Motor Authority]