November 5, 2012 - Car technology—as are all forms of technology—is advancing at an unprecedented rate. It is an exciting time for transportation. All this talk about driverless cars has to give you the feeling we are on the verge of something really big. Driving as we know it, will not be “as we know it” for much longer. Volvo has proved that with their latest technological development set to reach production in 2014. Autonomous Driving Support (ADS) is a new system designed by Volvo that basically drives the car by itself. The main difference between ADS and a completely autonomous car, like the Google Car, is that ADS is only for low-speed commuting.
ADS is a combination of adaptive cruise control and lane assist technology. Adaptive cruise control is like regular cruise control except the car automatically adjusts the speed according to the speed of traffic. Lane assist technology, as you can imagine, is designed to keep the driver in the lane through automated steering adjustments. Combine the two and you basically have an autonomous car. However, ADS will not change lanes, navigate your car, or react to obstructions—and it can only be used under 30mph. Essentially ADS is designed for commuters.
According to study done by the Census Bureau, commuters spend about 100 hours each year in their car going to and from work. Most of that is stop and go driving. Driving under those conditions day after day can be stressful, not only on the mind but on the body. ADS attempts to relieve some of that stress by taking over control of the car so that the driver can relax. Just like cruise control, the driver can regain control of the car at any point.
Volvo has taken a big step towards the future of driving. The difference between ADS and a fully autonomous car is huge, but ADS is proof that the driverless car is on its way. I still have a few concerns about ADS that I can’t seem to resolve through my research, like: What happens when traffic exceeds 30mph? Will ADS reduce traffic collisions or enhance their probability? My worry is that when drivers do not have to pay attention to the road, they won’t. Feel free to weigh in in the comment box below, I would like to hear your opinion on Volvo’s ADS.