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Mike Waters' blog: 13 July 2011 - A hands-off approach

Date: 13 July 2011

Mike Waters is senior insight & consultancy manager at Arval, the leading vehicle leasing and fleet management company.

It's important to feel like you're in control, especially when driving, but new technology means that in the not too distant future the role of the driver may become less and less.

An EU research project called HAVEit (which stands for Highly Automated Vehicles for Intelligent Transport), has just presented the "Temporary Auto Pilot" by Volkswagen. In Layman's terms this means a car can drive itself semi-automatically.

The Temporary Auto Pilot combines a series of functions that are monitored by the driver with other driver assistance systems, such as adaptive cruise control and the Lane Assist, into one comprehensive function.

Current assistance systems like Electronic Stability Control and self parking are already flooding onto the market and this new development represents a link between today's systems and more advanced technology. Especially because, despite the 'hands-off' nature of the technology, the driver always retains a level of control and has the ability to override or deactivate the system at any time.

Systems like this don't just make driving an easier task, they are importantly intended to prevent accidents due to driver errors (which lets face it are the major cause of accidents on our roads today). It does this by maintaining a safe distance from the vehicles ahead, reduces vehicle speed before bends, sticks to speed limits and maintains the vehicle's central position with respect to lane markers.

So the chances are that opinion will be split: some may see this a frightening loss of control that puts too much responsibility in the hands of a machine; others will view it as a great support in getting from A to B; while there will be groups that believe this takes the enjoyments out of driving.

Regardless of the different angles of opinion, this is not the first or the only self driving vehicle and with the widespread success of some driver assistance systems, more intelligent vehicles that use radars, cameras, lasers and sensors to 'drive themselves' will have a significant role to play in the cars of the future.

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