Volkswagen's Temporary Auto Pilot drives your car for you at 80mph

Next time you see a driver doing a crossword puzzle in a moving car, don't be alarmed. He's probably a Volkswagen engineer testing the company's Temporary Auto Pilot feature.

Automobiles

If you happen to see a car hurtling down the motorway while its driver is busy doing a crossword puzzle, don't be alarmed. He's probably a Volkswagen engineer testing the company's Temporary Auto Pilot feature. That, or he's really into extreme word games.

The Temporary Auto Pilot (TAP) concept was unveiled recently at the HaveIt (Highly Automated Vehicles for Intelligent Transport) EU research project, where it was said to be capable of driving a car at speeds of up to 80mph without any driver intervention.

According to our US friends at sister site CNET.com, the system uses technologies that normally work in a vehicle's lane-keeping and adaptive-cruise-control features. It combines cameras, ultrasonic sensors, a laser scanner and an 'electronic horizon' to keep an onboard computer permanently aware of the road and traffic conditions ahead of the vehicle. 

According to Volkswagen, TAP keeps the vehicle at a safe distance behind other cars, can reduce speed before a bend to help prevent collisions, and will steer itself to stay in lane.

Volkswagen's Dr Jurgen Leohold said: "[TAP is] an important milestone on the path towards fully automatic and accident-free driving. One conceivable scenario for its initial use might be in monotonous driving situations -- for example, in traffic jams or other sections of a driving route that are exceedingly speed-limited."

Having seen the effectiveness of automatic lane-keeping technology in cars such as the Ford Focus, we fully welcome our driverless overlords and can't wait to catch 40 winks while our veedubs navigate boring 50mph contraflows.

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