Remember how Nevada was considering a law to allow self-driving vehicles on the state's roads? Well, the law passed, but we still don't have any proper self-driving cars to take advantage of it. With a system such as the one Volkswagen is testing, we may be closer.
The "Temporary Auto Pilot," or TAP, is being billed as a semi-automatic driver assistance system that uses technology that's currently available or in production. That means it could actually find its way into real cars real soon.
It won't entirely drive the vehicle for you. Instead, on highways and other areas where traffic is mostly predictable, that car could take over — under driver supervision — keeping you at a set speed or at a set distance from the cars around you, and keep you from veering outside the lines. Smaller driving nuances, such as slowing down the vehicle to take a turn comfortably, are also part of the system.
Of course, if traffic picked up and there was a lot of starting and stopping, or in more complex driving situations such as navigating a neighborhood's turns and bends, then it goes back to being your chore to operate the car.
It's not true self-driving, true, but it is a system that, in the near future, maybe be just as ubiquitous as cruise control. After all, cruise control probably sounded crazy at the time. A driver taking his foot off the pedal? We're all gonna die!