You are here

VW's future tech: coming soon

  1. Self-driving cars, smart accessories and gesture control are just a few of the future-tech near reality possibilities Volkswagen is exploring at its Electronic Research Laboratory, in Silicon Valley USA.

    Top Gear paid a visit to VW’s boffin-rich advanced technology lab to check out what we might all be driving (or not) soon. Be afraid, world…

  2. Autonomous driving

    Once the stuff of tinfoil suited, pill-meal sci-fi, autonomous driving is a not just technically feasible today, but very near production ready. There isn’t a manufacturer that’s not looking at it, and Volkswagen is saying it’ll market what it’s calling Traffic Jam Pilot in the next few years. Expect the system on the next Audi A8, powering the big saloon at speeds of up to 40mph.

    The technology uses sensors, cameras and lasers from existing assistance systems, meaning it’ll not just be business tycoons in luxury saloons offered an electronic Jeeves, it won’t be long until Golfs and Polos are offered much the same.

    And don’t forget, we’ve already had a lightly terrifying passenger lap in a self-driving Audi RS7, too.

    Production ready: Within three years

  3. Gesture Control

    Buttons are so last century, touch screens currently where it’s at, but even they’ll be for the chop relatively soon. VW’s Human Machine Interface people are looking at removing any form of touch from many tasks.

    With current VWs already recognising you’re about to reach for the touch screen it’s not too far off production. Indeed, those of us with iPads and smartphones will be familiar with the sort of sweep, pinch and expand controls gesture control might use. Just hope the boffins work out a way to recognise the difference between actual controls and frantic arm and hand waving if an errant wasp gets in the car.

    Production ready: Within 5 years, start practising those casual hand movements now.

  4. Steering wheel mounted touchpads

    The touchpad itself isn’t new, being fitted to many an Audi, but adding them to the steering wheel is a development.

    VW’s ERL researchers are looking at adding a pair to the steering wheel that recognise the relatively simple 26 character English alphabet. The real challenge is the system recognising more complex languages like Chinese, with its countless different scripts. It’ll happen in time though.

    Production ready: Absolutely. Expect lesser-buttoned steering wheels on new Audis soon.

  5. Autonomous Parking

    No point being driven to your destination only to be required to park the car. VW is working on it, developing existing systems to the point where you don’t even have to be in the car for it to park. It not only recognises the space, but will park in it better than you could, too.

    In fact VW’s researchers shrugged when asked if the 20cm tolerances its self-parking system left down the each side of the vehicle are a bit rude. Someone else’s problem it seems, though don’t be surprised if you arrive back to your space to irate neighbours. Smartphone, smartwatch or key operation via holding a button means ultimately you’ll have control to stop the manoeuvre, so don’t lose your phone or keys when you’re out.

    Production ready: There’ll be some legal issues to sort first, but expect it in the next few years.

  6. Follow me

    Unlikely you’re going to take your car for a walk, but VW’s follow me function would help out delivery drivers enormously. Pat’s van will follow him as he does his rounds, parcels and post safe and dry in the back while he collects signatures and hands over the mail.

    Production ready: It’s possible, but don’t expect to see it within the next five years.

  7. Brainwave driving

    Drive by the power of thought? Sounds like a spurious ad line to us, but it’s technically possible - there being a Passat estate piloted around research facilities in Germany by brainwaves alone.

    The driver needs to wear an interesting skullcap and learn basic commands for left, right, stop and go, but it’s entirely feasible to drive without touching the steering wheel accelerator or brake. It’s just a shame the power of thought couldn’t come up with something a bit more interesting than a Passat Estate to drive.

    Production ready: Don’t know that it’s necessary given the car can drive itself. A novelty for now, but it has potential specialist applications in time.

  8. Smart accessories

    Proving that we need saving from our own stupidity, VW’s ERL staff have developed smart accessories. Stick your fancy £3000 carbon fibre racing bike on your roof with impunity, it communicating via Bluetooth with the car to make sure there’s enough clearance to avoid you becoming a crushing new part in a YouTube compilation.

    In addition to that, smart accessories will allow your roof rack to inform you if someone’s pinched your surfboard, skis or bike, and help you find it, too.

    Production ready: Absolutely, cutting crime and stupidity in one clever tech solution, though it’s still a few years off.

  9. Photo Souvenir

    One of the more blue-sky technologies, quite literally, VW’s Photo Souvenir takes snaps as you drive. As many as 6000 in a two-hour journey, the massive 32 GB of data that represents being edited down to a highlights selection via the car itself.

    A picture-editing car? Yes really. The best bits are loaded to your social media if you wish, the real big-brother element being the fact the car learns what you like and adapts accordingly.

    Production ready: A few privacy issues to counter, but if you’re narcissistic enough to want to star in your own Truman show then this might be the answer.

  10. 3D printing

    The internet (and Daily Mail) might see it as the means by which terrorists can print weapons, but at ERL (pictured above) it allows the sort of rapid prototyping that would have once taken weeks to undertake.

    ERL researchers can feed in Computer Aided Design data and leave the printer running overnight. Less time to perfect their table-tennis and fussball skills at the tables littered around the Silicon Valley-located ERL, but that means shorter production build-up and more rapid introduction of new models for all of us.

    Production ready: Yes, it’s happening now.

  11. Connected Drive

    All these autonomous systems will work even more efficiently if all the traffic communicates with itself and the environment around it. ‘Swarm intelligence’ would allow for better traffic management, safety and shorter journey times too. Connected Drive would allow trucks to school on motorways in a follow-me fashion to the benefit of fuel consumption and driver down-time, the possibilities being endless.

    Production ready: Entirely feasible, it’s just a case of getting all the different systems to speak the same language.

What do you think?

This service is provided by Disqus and is subject to their privacy policy and terms of use. Please read Top Gear’s code of conduct (link below) before posting.

Promoted content