Volvo claims to have a new piece of technology that could ease daily commuting. Called Traffic Jam Assistance, the technology can drive and steer a vehicle in thick traffic at speeds up to 31 mph. And it’s not just a clever demonstration — Volvo plans to put the system into production by 2014.
Volvo admits that Traffic Jam Assistance is essentially an evolution of two existing technologies: adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning. When the driver is in a slow-moving jam on a highway, he or she can push a button to have the Volvo’s computer take control of steering, braking, and steering. The car will continue driving in the same lane until the driver takes over. The system is even said to be clever enough to automatically steer around obstacles in a traffic lane, like construction barrels.
“Our aim with the traffic jam assistance is to make commuting a bit less stressful for the driver,” Volvo senior vice president for research and development Peter Mertens said in a statement. “It offers you a safe, effortless drive in slow traffic.”
The technology follows on Volvo’s earlier trials of “road trains”, in which cars communication with one another to drive safely at highway speeds. Unlike that trial, however, Traffic Jam Assistance doesn’t require cars to communicate with one another, and functions only at low speeds when highways are gridlocked. The company notes that this technology has lots of potential to help drivers on a daily basis — the average American apparently spends over 100 hours annually driving to and from work.
While Volvo says this technology will simply help drivers relax when commuting in heavy traffic, it’s clear that Traffic Jam Assistance is the company’s first tentative foray into self-driving cars. Volvo has publicly promised that by the year 2020, nobody will be killed or injured in any of its road cars, and self-driving cars are a big part of that goal. The company has already shown systems that can automatically brake to avoid a collision at an intersection, as well as technology that automatically brakes to avoid hitting animals like moose and deer.
Traffic Jam Assistance will debut on a new Volvo product in 2014. The company says the feature will be built into its new Scalable Product Architecture that will underpin future small Volvo models, meaning a wide range of new cars could be fitted with Traffic Jam Assistance.
For more on the system, watch the video from Volvo below.