Volkswagen Will Let You Do 153 KM/H In Its Semi-Autonomous System

There is a slightly updated Arteon coming next year, a car which honestly more people should consider. Beyond that VW’s US lineup — all of which has been updated in recent years, except for the dead Beetle — won’t get much else beyond some infortainment. Though some models will get a semi-autonomous system that does 153 km/h.

The infotainment updates, announced in a press release today to herald tweaks VW is making across its lineup in 2021, sound pretty standard with SiriusXM’s latest platform coming and a bunch of software changes:

The new MIB3 infotainment system features wireless App-Connect, with multi-phone pairing that can easily switch between devices, and enhanced voice recognition. The illuminated USB-C input connecter, first introduced on the previous generation, is now standard on all models with MIB3. Additionally, the MIB3 infotainment system features a redesigned navigation system (on equipped models), with simplified and enhanced map designs, intuitive route options, quick access to frequently visited locations, and advanced route management.

That all sounds … fine. Also in 2021, some VW models will get the company’s Level 2 semi-autonomous system, which is where things get more interesting. Emphasis mine:

New for select MY21 models, Travel Assist enables partially-automated hands-on driving from 0 to 153 km/h. Travel Assist can be activated by a button on the steering wheel, and uses the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Lane Keeping Assist (Lane Assist) features to help to steer as well as accelerate and brake the vehicle in response to traffic and lane markings. This allows the driver to observe driving tasks while using minimal force on the wheel. It is the driver’s responsibility to continuously monitor the system, remain alert, and maintain control of the vehicle at all times. To ensure this, Travel Assist monitors the capacitive steering wheel to make sure the driver has their hands on it.

Also new for select MY21 models, Emergency Assist can bring the vehicle to a stop if the driver is incapacitated. Emergency Assist constantly monitors the driver’s attentiveness by checking the input of their hands on the steering wheel. If the system does not detect driver input, a series of warnings (visual, audible, and brake jerks) will occur. If still no input is detected, Emergency Assist will slow the vehicle to a gradual stop in its own lane. Emergency Assist constantly monitors driver input and hand placement regardless of the status of other driver-assistance systems.

Now, plenty of cars let you use cruise control at speeds faster than the highest speed limit in America, which is 137 km/h on some toll roads in Texas. But the wording of this suggests limiting it to 153 km/h was a deliberate choice. Which might make more sense for this car in Germany on the Autobahn — though even there the suggested speed is around 129 km/h — but in America I’m trying to imagine a good use case, and so far coming up empty.

For context, Tesla’s Autopilot seems to be limited at 8 km/h more than what the car senses the speed limit to be, or a maximum of 145 km/h, while Cadillac’s Super Cruise is limited at 137 km/h.

I mean, I think one key use of cruise control and semi-autonomous systems like this is to keep your car moving within the legal limits and not outside them because you momentarily stopped paying attention. On the other hand, I’m not particularly keen on an automaker helping the police do its job, but, remember, this isn’t a speed limiter, merely a limit for this one function.

Maybe VW is imagining that people will take their Arteons to drag strips to hit 153 km/h, activate Travel Assist for a brief and glorious minute or two, and revel in the partially-automated hands-on nature of it all. Or maybe VW knows something we don’t. Maybe next year all the speed limits here are getting kicked up to 153 and VW has a source on the inside. We can only hope.

I emailed VW and will update this post if I hear back.