Semi-autonomous cards: Zooming off, quietly

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Published: August 11, 2018 2:45:39 AM

We take a look at the cars that drive in their lane, follow the vehicle ahead at a predefined speed, automatically apply brakes when needed, and even park themselves. India already has few such

XC40 luxury SUV, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW new 5 Series, XC40 luxury SUV review, XC40 luxury SUV featureOften called the best car in the world, the new S-Class can perform self-driving functions such

Last month, Volvo launched the new XC40 luxury SUV in India. Among other things, this vehicle is equipped with a number of semi-autonomous driving features—it can take over certain driving modes, although the driver is still in control. It’s nothing new. Over the last year, many such cars have been launched in India. We take a look.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Often called the best car in the world, the new S-Class can perform self-driving functions such as:

Active Distance Assist (Distronic): It maintains distance to the vehicle in front, up to a speed of 210kph—the driver doesn’t need to control acceleration or braking. If the car is braked to a complete stop at the end of stop-and-go traffic by the Distronic, it can start moving again 30 seconds later without driver intervention.

Active Steering Assist: It helps the driver keep the car in the centre of its lane on straight stretches of road or slight bends. If road markers are missing or unclear, the system uses vehicles travelling in the front for orientation.

Active Braking Assist: If an accident risk is detected, the system warns the driver and, in an emergency, apply brakes automatically. It detects slower-moving and stationary vehicles as well as crossing traffic at junctions, and acts accordingly.

BMW new 5 Series

What this car does is almost magical. If you find a tight parking space, just step out of the car. Then, using the BMW display key, move it forward into, or reverse out of, that space. Called the Remote Control Parking function, it can be activated only when you are outside the car. In addition, if, say, you are in an underground mall parking, the car’s Parking Assistant Plus measures potential spaces while driving past the cars already parked. Once it finds one, it sends a signal. As you press a button near the gear lever, and take your hands off the steering wheel and your legs off the pedals, the car will automatically park itself parallel or perpendicular to the vehicles.

(All these features work using sensors installed on the body of the car. And that’s where the catch is. India’s grime and dust may play villain—if these cover any of the sensors even partially, they might fail. Thus, the driver always has to be in control of the vehicle.)

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