Everyone, we suggest you run inside and hide—the robots are here, and they’re going to take over your car! Well, not really, but computer brains that can pilot your car for you are becoming a reality—and just two short years from now, Volvo is putting full-autonomous capability on the road.
You heard right, Volvo has announced that by 2014, it will begin equipping its next-generation models with what it is calling Traffic Jam Assistance. It will enable driverless, uh, driving at speeds below 31 mph.
Even though the system is only designed for low-speed operation, this still is a huge deal—to have a car automatically handle throttle, braking, and steering duties all at once is entirely new to production vehicles. (Take that, experimental Google Priuses!) Of course, if we zoom out for a moment, so to speak, and look at the steady stream of driver-assistance technology, such autonomous operation isn’t so far-fetched. Even Volvo admits it. Traffic Jam Assistance, by and large, is an amalgamation of several existing radar- and camera-based technologies like lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and Volvo’s own City Safety auto-braking functionality. Plus, Volvo’s not the only company wading into the auto-steering arena—Nissan just announced it is working on a collision-avoidance setup that can actively steer the car around or away from impending danger.