At the track’s inner ring, we’re greeted by the largest sea of seamless, unstriped asphalt we’ve ever seen. VW has set up several temporary demonstration courses with orange traffic cones, and we’ll soon see what they’re all about. We have come to see the future of mobility as Volkswagen envisions it.
The displays of the day fall into one of two categories — driver assistance technology or autonomous driving technology. Some of it is ready for prime time, but most of it needs more development before you can start checking option boxes at your local dealer. Regardless, it’s a fair assumption that most of what we’re seeing here is more science fact than science fiction.
We start with the driver-assistance technologies behind the wheel of a standard-production Passat CC. The highlight of this particular car is Lane Assist, which uses a camera, mounted inside above the rear-view mirror, to look at the road; a processor then reads the visual data and determines the left and right edges of the lane. If the car wanders to either edge without any definitive input from the driver, the car will steer itself back into the lane via input to the electromechanical power steering system.
The sensation is that of bouncing off some invisible force field. The driver, however, must keep his hands on the wheel, or the system will belt out an audible alarm if it thinks you’re leaving all of the driving to the computers. Remarkably, the system detects even the most minor steering input from the driver, meaning there is no resistance from the car in making gentle lane changes.