Semi-autonomous driving: Can you drive through town after pressing the throttle only once?
Radar-guided cruise control means it's technically possible to drive through town after pressing the 'go' pedal once and once only. So, naturally, we had a go in London and hoped there'd be no idiots on the road.
Alex GoyEditor / Roadshow
Alex Goy is an editor for Roadshow. He loves all things on four wheels and has a penchant for British sports cars - the more impractical the better. He also likes tea.
Watch this: Volvo's Radar Cruise Control Means You Only Have To Steer
I'll level with you, I'd been drinking when the idea for this one occured. I was on a Volvo event and had just driven a Volvo V60 DRIVe (now the D2) from Marlow (just off the M4 outside of London) to Mayrhofen (in the Tyrol, Austria) on just over a single tank of fuel. No mean feat, I hasten to add.
While I was enjoying a beer or three in the bar a chap from Volvo mentioned the cruise control had been improved and would now work from a standstill. What he meant was that in theory you could get your car up to speed, set the radar cruise control (which will modulate the speed for you if people/cars/things got in your way) and let the car do its thing. If/when the car comes to a full stop all the driver has to do is press the reset button to get it going again. In theory you don't actually have to press the accelerator more than once.
I put it to the back of my mind for a year or so until XCAR became a 'thing.' I was told we could make some interesting features, so I decided it was time to see whether it was possible to commute only pressing the go button once. We hatched a plan to get from Kew to the north side of Tower Bridge on a lovely summer's morn. Why that far? It's a feasible distance for a city commute and it meant we didn't have to get up too early...
Thanks to London traffic being what it is we had to start early in the morning and hope that there wouldn't be too many fools on their way to work early. There wasn't too much traffic, but the phrase "never underestimate the power of human stupidity" has never been more apt. London's drivers are aggressive, selfish, and take no prisoners -- smooth, quiet drives to work are rare.
The car we used was near identical to the one that inspired the film -- this time I was in a Volvo S60 DRIVe (again, now the D2 -- they don't make a DRIVe any more). As eco cars go, the Volvo is pretty great. You don't lose too much 'car' in the pursuit of precious economy. If you're looking for a stylish eco saloon you could do much, much worse than have a gander at the S60. Just remember -- do spec the radar cruise, but don't rely on it.