For this to work, however, the assistance system must know the driver well. It has to learn when they normally step on the gas, brake before corners, and signal before overtaking. “You can’t lump all drivers together,” adds Spika. It’s a mammoth task for the developers he works with because they need to establish how a given individual drives.
To do so, they use cameras to observe the driver, and log their driving behavior. “Every detail counts until the Guardian Angel is able to evaluate the driving behavior,” says Spika. That requires artificial intelligence (AI), which is packed into the big, powerful computers in the Passat’s trunk. The method is known as “deep learning.” During the journey, the computer develops a picture of the driver’s typical and current driving style, and works out how they are behaving in the current situation.
Back to the test track: when Spika starts driving faster than usual and begins an overtaking maneuver with poor visibility just before a corner, his Guardian Angel warns: “Attention, insufficient visibility.” This advice is based on a huge mass of data from the navigation system and the control units on board. The Spika team combines this data pool with the driver profile – in real time. Their aim is to identify the situation and trigger the correct response at just the right time – both in the driver and in the car.
The Guardian Angel’s time will arrive when highly automated cars are introduced to our roads. That’s because the system is designed for a safe, comfortable, and customized next-generation driving experience. It will then, at the perfect moment, give advice that is tailored precisely to the driver and their driving style.
Spika, who has handed over the project leadership to Jan Sonnenberg, looks to the future with great optimism: “The Guardian Angel will be a reserved, friendly, and assertive assistant you can trust.”