VW's hands-free driving test

In test, VW’s temporary auto pilot lets drivers take their hands off the wheel

With human error causing 90 percent of the most serious traffic accidents, Volkswagen is experimenting with an autopilot that will take over key functions in critical situations.

The German carmaker has created a research vehicle as part of an EU research project called HAVE-IT, which stands for Highly Automated Vehicles for Intelligent Transport.

VW’s temporary auto pilot (TAP) will determine “the optimal degree of automation,” taking into account the traffic environment and other factors, said Juergen Leohold, head of VW group research.

Leohold presented the research vehicle Monday to Neelie Kroes, the EU commissioner in charge of Europe's digital agenda.

TAP can take over the steering function in a vehicle, but the driver will need to constantly oversee the system.

“The implementation of highly automated systems such as TAP, which is monitored by the driver, could be one of the next steps in the evolution of driver-assistance systems," VW said in a press release.

The HAVE-IT research project runs from February, 2008, until July next year. Twenty automakers and suppliers cooperate with several research institutes on the project.