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 |  Jun 23 2011, 7:53 AM

Years from now you’ll remember reading this article. It will be the first time you ever heard about Volkswagen‘s new Temporary Auto Pilot, a technology that lets a car essentially drive by itself.

Science fiction? Hardly, VW claims its far closer to rolling this auto pilot option in production models that you’d expect.

Anyone who’s been paying any attention to the development of autonomous cars will likely have heard of Google’s driverless ones. While those vehicles are a somewhat distant reality, cars using Volkswagen’s TAP system could be on the road soon, thanks to the use of technology already in place in production cars. In a statement released following the debut of the system, Volkswagen claims that, “TAP is based on a relatively production-like sensor platform, consisting of production-level radar-, camera-, and ultrasonic-based sensors supplemented by a laser scanner and an electronic horizon.”

Revealed at the HAVEit (Highly Automated Vehicles for Intelligent Transport) conference in Boras, Sweden, VW research director Dr. Jürgen Leohold described it as “An important milestone on the path towards fully automatic and accident-free driving.”

The Temporary Auto Pilot function, which can be switched on or off by the driver, will allow what VW calls “semi-automatic” driving at speeds of up to 130 km/h, or roughly 86 mph. It bundles features like adaptive cruise control, and a lane assist system allowing the vehicle to stay centered in a lane and maintain a constant distance from the vehicle ahead. Added innovations include the ability to reduce speed in a corner, as well as the ability to recognize speed limits.