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Monday, December 24, 2012

The idea of an autonomous car is on the horizon. Volvo recently announced that it will introduce cars with an autonomous system in 2014. The system, known as Traffic Jam Assistance, will be able to drive itself in low-speed traffic up to 30 mph. Given Volvo’s current advances in technology, this is just a natural step toward the ultimate goal of complete road safety.

Flip-a-Switch Volvo Autonomy

By flipping a switch, drivers will hand control to the vehicle, and of course, take control back again when needed. When the Traffic Jam Assistance copilot is engaged, the car will accelerate, steer and brake without human direction. Sensors can direct the car to stay a safe distance from the leader traffic.
The system is a natural progression from Volvo’s current electronic handling and braking systems. The SARTRE road-train program is a real-time road experiment which has tested these systems. TJA-driven vehicles have spent many days following a human-driven semi-truck without incident.

Regulatory Obstacles

The biggest obstacle is not just getting the technology into cars. It is also getting the government to approve it. Right now, policies must be enacted state by state, and this may take a long time. It would certainly be better if this could be achieved with one decision at the national level.

Volvo’s Current Autonomous Systems

Volvo’s autonomous cars didn’t happened overnight. Essentially the process has moved from warning systems to auto-braking to the TJA-driven cars. In Volvo, the first step was the current lane departure warning system. Each time the car crosses a lane line, the alert sounds, the driver responds, and accidents can be avoided. All of these things are great, but the control is still in the driver’s hands.
The next step was Volvo’s active collision avoidance system, Collision Warning with Auto Brake. This warning system sounds when the vehicle’s electronic eyes sense a dangerous obstacle or slowing traffic. If the driver doesn’t respond or can’t respond in time, the auto brake kicks in. This can stop the car before an accident occurs. At the very least, it speeds response time. And when you’re driving, seconds are the difference between life and death.

Volvo’s Goals

The TJA system is the next step toward the final goal of a system that can respond to every threat. Volvo seeks to unite incremental electronic control systems, integrating multiple braking, traction control, and other stabilizers into one system.
Eventually the car can be autonomous at higher speeds, and the result should be a safer, more secure ride for the driver and car occupants. Of course, if every car were a Volvo, this would make the system work even better, since all cars would be able to avoid accidents equally well. Considering Volvo's current success with collision avoidance systems, Traffic Jam Assistance will be a big break-through in automotive safety.

Author Bio:
Author Jason Lancaster is the editor and founder of Accurate AutoAdvice.com, a website dedicated to giving car owners complete, accurate information about their vehicles and the car ownership experience.

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