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Bosch’s traffic jam assist could make the gridlock much safer … and a lot less boring

Actor and writer Robert Llwellyn may be most recognized, (well, known for, anyway) as the mechanoid from the 80s BBC Sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf, but more recently, he’s presented several YouTube shows such as Fully Charged. In the latest episode of the electric-vehicle-focused show, Llwellyn takes a ride with a representative from Bosch to demonstrate how its traffic jam assist system works.

The demonstration took place this past January in Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show. In traffic situations from 0 to 35 miles per hour, Bosch’s system engages some of the car systems autonomously, freeing the driver of some of the gridlock pressure.

Using a forward facing camera and the radar sensors on cars, traffic assist can control braking and acceleration functions, as well as the steering. It works similarly to adaptive cruise control in practice, but that still requires the driver to steer and pay close attention. Combine that with lane keep assist technology, and the car can plot a trajectory safely, even coming to an emergency stop when necessary. The demo showed the system working with a mono camera, but a stereo video camera could then perceive distance and speed.

Bosch emphasizes that this semi-autonomous network of systems is a step towards fully self-driving cars that they have been keen to have a hand in. Quite recently, they’ve released a vision of that future where the vehicle can handle the highway completely independent of the driver.

That might be a few years away, but something like traffic assist could be something we could see in many cars quite soon. The technology exists, it’s just a matter of getting it all to work together in a safe way. Once that’s achieved, the drudgery of stop-and-go traffic could be made a little more bearable.

Related: Bosch expects to see self-driving cars in 10 years

If for those instances, we could trust the car, we’d be free to distract ourselves with some smartphone browsing or even a quick in-car bite. Traffic will still suck, but it will at least be significantly less annoying.