Volvo has mashed Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping Aid technologies together to create a traffic jam assistance system that allows you to kick back and relax as your car drives itself. It may sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but apparently it'll be available on production Volvos by 2014. Welcome to the future.
A vehicle in front travelling below 50km/h can be followed automatically by a Volvo equipped with traffic jam assistance, maintaining a steady gap of your choosing. A simple button press activates the feature, which then takes over braking, steering and acceleration until you decide to take back the reigns.
The idea is that dull stop-start traffic jams will be made slightly less monotonous. The system will allow people to rest kick back, relax and reclaim some of the 100s of hours wasted every year inching through jams. It will no doubt be quite therapeutic and may even reduce road rage.
"This technology makes driving more relaxed in the kind of monotonous queuing that is a less attractive part of daily driving in urban areas. It offers you a safe, effortless drive in slow traffic," Peter Mertens, Senior Vice President Research and Development of Volvo Car Corporation, explained.
"Our aim is to gain leadership in the field of autonomous driving by moving beyond concepts and pioneering technologies that will reach actual customers. Making these features reliable and easy to use is crucial to boosting customer confidence in self-driving cars," Martens added.
Volvo isn't the only car manufacturer barking up this particular tree. Nissan's NSC-2015 car also promises to drive itself. Its makers claim it can drop you off at your destination, zooming away to park itself and will even come and pick you up when you’re ready to hit the road again.
We’re likely to see Volvo's interpretation far sooner than Nissan’s as there's a big difference between adaptive cruise control on steroids and a car driving along without anybody sat inside it.