Volvo Developing System for Low Speed, No-Hands Driving

Gary S. Vasilash

While it may appear as though the picture below is your ordinary image of a daily drive, it is possible that the person in the second Volvo is enjoying a meal of lutfisk or some such as he or she is commuting.


No, this isn’t because of some characteristic of Volvo drivers to enjoy odoriferous , gelatinous cod when driving, but because the following car is actually equipped with the “traffic jam assistance system” that Volvo is developing and plans to have ready for production by 2014.

The technology builds on the adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping technology that it deployed on the V40 earlier this year.

The “traffic jam assistance system” doesn’t avoid traffic jams but makes driving in a traffic jam easier by automatically following the vehicle in front of one’s car, assuming that the speeds are no greater than 31 mph.

The system avails itself of sensors and electric steering such that it brakes, accelerates and steers as necessary, although it keeps the car within the lanes.

Volvo drive

From the top left to the right, then down left and over right: The car follows the one ahead.  the one ahead encounters an obstacle and maneuvers slightly to the left.  The following car, with the traffic jam assistance, automatically steers to the left, then back to the right once the lead car is back between the white lines.

Said Peter Mertens, senior vice president of Research and Development for Volvo Car Corp., “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.”

Assuming that he or she is actually paying attention to what they ought to be doing, which is driving their car.

Volvo is big on autonomous driving. At a seminar in Washington last week, Mertens said that legislators must start preparing for cars that can drive without much in the way of human intervention. “It is important that the U.S. government underlines that regulation of motor vehicle safety systems and components is their jurisdiction,” he said. “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.”

One can imagine the lawyers just lining up.