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Your next VW could drive itself in traffic jams, have steering-wheel touchpads

New-car development never stands still, especially when it comes to tech. Carmakers are currently racing to find the best ways to integrate smartphones into dashboards, and make cars smart enough to manage all of the information they’re now capable of generating.

After paying a visit to the Volkswagen Group’s Silicon Valley research lab, Autocar reports that the German carmaker has multiple systems on the horizon that will increase vehicle autonomy and improve the vaunted human-machine interface.

The first of these pieces of tech is a “Traffic Jam Pilot” that will allow cars to drive themselves in certain situations.  It uses an array or cameras and sensors to do that, backed up by onboard HD maps.

This is likely the semi-autonomous tech Audi hinted at a couple of months ago. It’s expected to launch on the next-generation A8, but Volkswagen says the technology is scalable, so it could trickle down to cheaper models as well.

The same hardware will also support an autonomous parking function, which will reportedly allow the driver to get out and guide the parking maneuver with a smartphone. It could become available as early as 2016.

Related: Audi TT “virtual cockpit” interior won’t be used on larger models

For when the driver is actually in the car, the VW Group is also experimenting with steering-wheel mounted touch pads. Just like the touch pads that have already made their home on the center consoles of some cars, they would allow drivers to quickly input commands.

On a completely different note, Volkswagen is also experimenting with a system that takes photos using four externally-mounted GoPro cameras, and sorts through them for the best shots of the scenery you’ve just driven through.

The system can take around 6,000 pictures over a two-hour journey, but it’s supposed to be able to learn how to choose the best ones. All the driver needs to do is pick from that smaller batch and Instagram or Twitter away.

Of course, if this tech becomes available around the same time as the promised autonomous systems, it might be rendered redundant.

If the car is driving itself, can’t the humans inside press a shutter button?