Following the development of the Audi TT anonymous project, whereby students and engineers developed a car that could be driven without a human occupant, VW has presented the “Temporary Auto Pilot”.
Monitored by the driver, the car can drive semi-automatically up to a speed of 80mph on freeways. It represents a link between today’s assistance systems and the vision of fully automatic driving.
The project was unveiled at the final presentation of the EU research project HAVEit (Highly Automated Vehicles for Intelligent Transport) by Prof Dr Jürgen Leohold, Executive Director Volkswagen Group Research.
Driving enthusiasts have always feared the creeping technology that will one day make the driver redundant. This technology seems to be taking us one step further to that nighmare scenario.
"Above all, what we have achieved today is an important milestone on the path towards accident-free driving," emphasized Leohold at today’s presentation in Borås, Sweden.
The Temporary Auto Pilot (TAP) bundles semi-automatic functions (those monitored by the driver), with other driver assistance systems, such as ACC adaptive cruise control and the Lane Assist lane-keeping system into one comprehensive function.
"Nonetheless, the driver always retains driving responsibility and is always in control," continued Leohold. "The driver can override or deactivate the system at any time and must continually monitor it."
TAP is said to offers the driver an optimal degree of automation as a function of the driving situation and acquisition of the surroundings. It is intended to prevent accidents due to driving errors by an inattentive, distracted driver. However, these systems, it could be argued, will only lead to further inattentive driving since the occupant is no longer required to operate the vehicle fully.
In the semi-automatic driving mode – referred to as Pilot Mode – TAP maintains a safe distance to the vehicle ahead, drives at a speed selected by the driver, reduces this speed as necessary before a bend, and maintains the vehicle’s central position with respect to lane markers. 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 80mph on freeways or similar roads. Drivers must continually focus their attention on the road, so they can intervene in safety-critical situations at any time.
In contrast to previous research vehicles such as "Junior" and "Stanley", TAP 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.
"One conceivable scenario for its initial use might be in monotonous driving situations, such as traffic jams or over sections of a route that are speed-limited," commented Leohold.
The EU-funded R&D project HAVEit (Highly Automated Vehicles for Intelligent Transport) was set up to develop research concepts and technologies for highly automated driving. It is claimed this will help reduce the drivers’ workload, prevent accidents, reduce environmental impact and make traffic safer.
Launched in February 2008, 17 European partners from the automotive and supply sector and the scientific community collaborated on the project. Total investments in HAVEit amounted to EUR 28 million, of which EUR 17 million of this sum came from EU grants, and EUR 11 million was contributed by the 17 project partners, of which EUR 7 million was invested by the automobile industry.
The HAVEit consortium consists of vehicle manufacturers, automotive suppliers and scientific institutes from Germany, Sweden, France, Austria, Switzerland, Greece and Hungary: Continental, Volvo Technology AB, Volkswagen AG, EFKON AG, Sick AG, Haldex Brake Products AB, Knowllence, Explinovo GmbH, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), University of Athens, Institute of Communications and Computer Systems (ICCS), University of Applied Sciences Amberg-Weiden, Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Universität Stuttgart, Institut für Luftfahrtsysteme, Wuerzburg Institute of Traffic Sciences GmbH, Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique (Inria), Institut français des sciences et technologies des transports, de l'aménagement et des réseaux (IFSTTAR).