Markus Waibel from robotspodcast pointed us to a “Temporary Auto Pilot” or TAP debuted by Volkswagen, which allows cars to drive semi-autonomously at speeds of up to 130 km (or 80 miles) per hour. The autopilot was developed as part of the EU research project HAVEit (Highly Automated Vehicles for Intelligent Transport) and works by bundling other driver assistance systems such as "ACC" adaptive cruise control and "Lane Assist" lane-keeping systems into one comprehensive function. It can autonomously maintain the vehicle’s central position with respect to lane markers, maintain a safe distance to the vehicle ahead and reduce its speed as necessary before a bend. It also observes overtaking rules and speed limits. However, similar to existing systems the driver retains driving responsibility and can override or deactivate the system at any time. There is also the choice of the automation level between driver only, assistance (hands on), autopilot (hands off) and safety (emergency brake).
During its presentation in Sweden Executive Director of Volkswagen Group Research Jürgen Leohold stressed that unlike other experimental autonomous vehicles like “Junior” and “Stanley” (Of DARPA challenge fame), TAP is based on a production-like sensor platform, consisting of production-level radar, camera, and ultrasonic based sensors, supplemented by a laser scanner and an electronic horizon. Volkswagen thinks that one possible scenario for its initial use might be in monotonous driving situations, in traffic jams, for example, or over sections of a driving route that are exceedingly speed-limited. These condition under-load the driver and the resulting lack of concentration is one of the most frequent contributors to accidents.
TAP is only one aspect of HAVEit, which is a collaboration between 17 partners from the European automotive industry and scientific community. The main 3 goals of the program is the design of the interface between the driver and the systems, the failure tolerance of the full architecture and the development and validation of high automated driving assistance systems. The project includes 6 validation prototype vehicles, passenger cars, trucks and buses.