The system, called “Temporary Auto Pilot,” allows the car to drive autonomously on highways or in stop-and-go city traffic. The system uses multiple ultrasonic and radar-based sensors, laser scanners, video cameras and an electronic horizon to allow the car to survey and react to road conditions by itself.
TAP maintains a predefined distance between you and the car ahead while maintaining a selected speed, which is much like many adaptive cruise control systems do today. The system also keeps the vehicle centered between lane markers and can overtake other vehicles and change speed limits depending on the observed laws of the road.
VW points out that TAP is supposed to act only as a second pair of eyes on the road in case of driver distraction or fatigue. Volkswagen foresees the technology being useful during monotonous driving situations like heavy stop-and-go city traffic or over long expanses of highway commuting. Ultimately, VW says the driver still needs to monitor the actions of TAP while the car is in motion.
Unlike other research vehicles, like Google’s driverless car or vehicles from the DARPA challenges, Volkswagen says its system is nearly production ready.