Volvo Car Corp. demonstrates autonomous driving in traffic jams; traffic jam assistance system ready for production in 2014
As another step toward autonomous driving systems, Volvo Car Corporation is demonstrating a new traffic jam assistance system. The new system, whereby the car automatically follows the vehicle in front in slow-moving queues up to 50 km/h (31 mph), will be ready for production in 2014.
The traffic jam assistance function is an evolution of the current Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping Aid technology, which was introduced in the all-new Volvo V40 earlier in 2012. The driver activates the traffic jam assistance function by pushing a button. When active, the engine, brakes and steering respond automatically.
The Adaptive Cruise Control enables safe, comfortable driving by automatically maintaining a set gap to the vehicle in front, at the same time as the steering is also controlled.
This technology makes driving more relaxed in the kind of monotonous queuing that is a less attractive part of daily driving in urban areas. It offers you a safe, effortless drive in slow traffic. The car follows the vehicle in front in the same lane. However, it is always the driver who is in charge. He or she can take back control of the car at any time.—Peter Mertens, Senior Vice President Research and Development of Volvo Car Corporation
Slow-moving queues are part of urban commuting. Americans spend more than 100 hours a year commuting to work, according to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Drivers in major metropolitan areas such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles spend even longer times queuing to and from work every day.
The low-speed traffic jam assistance system is the second technology for autonomous driving recently presented by Volvo Car Corporation. A few weeks ago, the company demonstrated the SARTRE project (Safe Road Trains for the Environment), which focuses on platooning in highway and motorway traffic at speeds of up to 90 km/h (56 mph). (Earlier post.)
Autonomous driving—with steering, acceleration and/or braking automatically controlled by a vehicle that requires very little human interaction—is a major focus area in Volvo Car Corporation’s development work. (Earlier post.)
The traffic jam assistance technology will be part of Volvo Car Corporation’s new Scalable Product Architecture, SPA, which will be introduced in 2014.
Separately, Volvo Car Corporation and the Embassy of Sweden hosted a seminar—“Policy Implications of Autonomous Vehicles”— in Washington DC at which Mertens called for a seamless, federal framework for regulating autonomous vehicles.
Autonomous driving has potential for improving road safety, traffic flow and fuel economy. To make this happen it is important to avoid a patchwork of various state regulations.
Volvo Car Corporation aims to gain leadership in the field of autonomous driving by moving beyond concepts and pioneering technologies that will reach the customers. We already have several driving assistance systems in the pipeline. But the legal situation for this technology still remains unclear. We want to address this by supporting efforts to legalize testing of autonomous systems as well as initiating a constructive co-operation with policymakers.
It is important that the US Government underlines that regulation of motor vehicle safety systems and components is their jurisdiction. NHTSA research on the issues associated with autonomous vehicles could be the first step toward adoption of performance ratings on technology for autonomous driving. It is also crucial that state legislation doesn’t restrict the use of active safety and support systems. They should be explicitly excluded from the definition of autonomous driving.—Peter Mertens