You’ve never entered a corner like you can with Porsche’s new InnoDrive system, which they still had to dial down for the road.
Instead of taking over the wheel completely with some occasionally functional “level 3” semi-autonomous system that seems to be the jam nowadays, Porsche decided to leave the steering to you, optimizing your journey by accelerating and braking the car on its own.
The system uses map, radar and sensor-based data to provide you with the most advanced cruise control experience to date, and the funny thing is, choose not to use InnoDrive to “optimize fuel economy” and it will throw the car into a blind corner at speeds you’d never dare to.
It certainly takes some getting used to. Imagine that you’re sitting in a 440 horsepower Porsche Panamera 4S, the dial on the steering wheel is set to Sport+, the InnoDrive is set to a limit of 62mph, and a sharp, blind corner is up ahead.
You’re still steering, but your foot is off the pedals. Suddenly, you enter that corner at 62mph, turning the wheel and hoping for the best. Then, the car simply makes it through the bend at twice the speed you’d use, come rain or shine.
InnoDrive works without being connected to the internet, using detailed map data to predict what’s ahead, cameras and radar to avoid hitting any obstacle, and feedback from its sensors to measure tire slip, adjusting the speed constantly to the actual road conditions.
The idea is that by still letting you take care of the enjoyable part of the drive, the system can make a plan by calculating what’s up to 1.8 miles ahead, optimizing the journey by knowing what sort of speed restrictions are coming up, adjusting the gearbox and the engine output to either maximize efficiency, or speed. Therefore, the system uses different tactics depending on the drive mode you’re in.
In normal, it will be focusing on maximum efficiency by switching to coasting earlier than the driver could, timing acceleration and deceleration phases for the smoothest ride. In Sport+, the very same robot will soldier on like a racing driver who grew up in the neighborhood. In fact, the S+ settings had to be dialed back by Porsche, because the first versions were blasting through the countryside at a rate that had the potential to terrify their customers.
But no matter what speed limit you set it to using the stalk on the left, InnoDrive reads road signs and drops the numbers accordingly, so you don’t get into trouble. You’ll also need to stop at the red lights yourself. The system is only available in countries with detailed enough map data, and don’t be surprised if it still gets confused by some roundabouts like a good American. Still, what’s for sure is that it’s a fun game to play with on the open road, and a driving aid that proves that our cars can already be faster than us, by acting as locals wherever we steer them.