Volkswagen Group cars with the ability to self-drive and self-park will be on the market within five years, according to engineers at VW’s Electric Research Laboratory (ERL) in Silicon Valley.
The ERL is tasked with being inspired by integrating the latest electronic innovation to emerge from Silicon Valley, home to the likes of Apple, Google and Facebook, into VW Group products, making sure it is up with and ahead of trends.
The autonomous technology is a large part of its development, but many other projects are ongoing, including cars that learn their environment, bespoke smartphone apps, and innovative new safety and security features, some of which are detailed below.
Traffic Jam Pilot – a first step to autonomous driving
The Traffic Jam Pilot system has been previewed in an Audi A7 concept car and is tipped to go into production in the next-gen Audi A8 in 2016. Traffic Jam Pilot takes complete control of the car at speeds of up to 40mph in traffic.
VW has so-far undertaken tens of thousands of miles of testing autonomous technology – or piloted as VW now calls it, in reference to an auto-pilot system on aircraft – on US roads.
Autonomous technology is made up of laser sensors, laser scanners, stereo cameras and ultrasonic cameras, largely existing technology adapted for new functions. The ERL’s head of driver assistance systems Jörg Schlinkheider said the technology VW is developing is scalable, with the view of fitting it to everything from an entry-level VW Golf to a range-topping Audi A8.
Beyond the sensors and cameras, Schlinkheider said it was necessary for the car to have HD maps that can tell the car what’s around the corner if it can’t see and adapt according, and also complex algorithms for dealing with the control inputs and scenarios such as overtaking. All this info will feed into a ‘decider’ system, an ECU the size of an iPad.