Semi-automatic car system unveiled by Volkswagen

German automaker Volkswagen has unveiled a "temporary auto pilot" function which can drive its vehicles semi-automatically and could be a feature of production vehicles within the next five years.

The company said June 23 that the system was the final outcome of the EU "Highly Automated Vehicles for Intelligent Transport" project (HAVEIt), which was launched in 2008 to investigate automated driving solutions.

Temporary Autopilot can handle the cars at speeds of up to 130 km/h on the highway, Volkswagen said, keeping the car on the correct course and at the right distance from the vehicle ahead.

It uses systems commonly found on modern cars, such as lane departure sensors, collision radars and cruise control, to provide what Volkswagen describes as a "link between today’s assistance systems and the vision of fully automatic driving."

By computing information fed to it from a variety of sensors, including radar, camera and ultrasound sensors, as well as laser scanners, a vehicle on "Pilot Mode" can drive at a driver-selected speed, slowing for vehicles ahead, reducing speed before a bend and maintaining the car's central position on the road.

However, Volkswagen stresses that the driver remains in absolute control and must continue to monitor their journey, keeping focused and able to intervene if a safety-critical situation were to arise.

This is in contrast to the automated "road train" demonstrated earlier this year by a team of academics and Volvo in Sweden, where the cars could drive themselves if led by a manned convoy leader.

Another key difference is the time likely to be needed to implement the system, with Volkswagen describing it as being "based on a relatively production-like sensor platform."

The HAVEit project coordinator, Dr Reiner Hoeger, said this week that technology used in the temporary auto-pilot, and the other systems created as part of the project, "could be further developed and start series production within the next five to ten years."

http://www.haveit-eu.org/

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