'Temporary autopilot' takes some of the driving strain

Posted by Kate Taylor

Some people are just a little worried about handing all control over to a driverless car. So Volkswagen has come up with a halfway house called the Temporary Auto Pilot (TAP) system.

Monitored by the driver, this allows the car to drive semi-automatically up to a speed of about 80 miles per hour on motorways. It combines automatic systems such as ACC adaptive cruise control, the Lane Assist lane-keeping system and Side Assist lane-changing monitoring in one package.

"What we have achieved today is an important milestone on the path towards accident-free car driving," says Jürgen Leohold, head of Volkswagen Group Research.

“The driver always retains driving responsibility and is always in control. The driver can override or deactivate the system at any time and must continually monitor it."

In semi-automatic driving mode, TAP keeps a safe distance from the vehicle ahead, and drives at a speed selected by the driver, reducing this as necessary before a bend.

It maintains the vehicle’s position with respect to lane markers, and observes overtaking rules and speed limits. Stop-and-start driving manoeuvres in traffic jams are also automated, says Leohold.

Unlike earlier research vehicles such as 'Junior' and 'Stanley', TAP can be put together from readily-available elements, such as production-level radar, camera and ultrasonic-based sensors, together with a laser scanner and an electronic horizon.

"One conceivable scenario for its initial use might be in monotonous driving situations, for example in traffic jams or over sections of a driving route that are exceedingly speed-limited," says Leohold.