Bentley, BMW, and Rolls Royce are all offering at least some level of a system by which their cars can adjust their cruise control systems to respond to the road based on GPS data. Porsche's Panamera has a similar system in the new model, promoting speed and efficiency in equal measure. By using highly precise navigation data, Porsche's Innodrive system monitors your route, speed limits, and road topography (corner radii, elevation changes, and grades) to adjust throttle, gearing, and braking. This assistance system can see much farther up the road than your eyeballs ever could. Ultimately, the driver can still intervene with throttle and braking inputs, but if you so choose, Porsche can relegate you to the same kind of job a rally codriver might have, offering input, rather than taking up the reins yourself.
Philip Markschläger: Project Manager of Porsche's InnoDrive program -
“You have to take the plunge with InnoDrive, for starters. But, in trials, it soon became clear: that happens pretty quickly."
Porsche's oddly named InnoDrive system allows Panamera drivers to take their feet off the pedals completely and relax their legs a bit. When engaged, the car will know exactly what to do and when to do it, regarding throttle and braking input. The driver of the car is only needed for steering inputs, monitoring traffic, and applying the left or right turn signals as needed.
Porsche is confident that the car will easily respond to changes in the route, having proven that fact with traffic circles. In tests the system can determin where the car is headed immediately based on steering inputs. You can drive through a traffic circle, where the car will decelerate down to the appropriate speed, corner properly, and then accelerate out of the circle onto the intended path. Additionally, the system will recognize when the driver has missed their exit from the traffic circle and continue with steady throttle, constantly circling the roundabout until the driver makes their exit, at which point the Panamera's InnoDrive will accelerate out and up to normal speed limits.
The InnoDrive system can improve not only the speed and efficiency of your drive, but the comfort levels as well. For example, on a road with several hills leading into each other, the system can gradually accelerate the car up to a speed that will crest the next hill with minimal throttle input. You won't feel as much of a jolt when gears kick down and the throttle kicks in if the computer knows what is coming around the next bend. Porsche's engineers taught the system to drive smoothly and with as little jerking as possible. That smooth application of minimal throttle and minimal brake for the conditions also helps to increase your efficiency.
Here is an excerpt from a recent issue of Porsche's Christophorous magazine that needs to be read to fully understand the Innodrive system. Just check out what it is capable of in Sport mode to fully appreciate Porsche's work here.
Normal vs. Sport
On a country road, Markschläger flips the switch on the steering wheel to Sport and suddenly the codriver’s sporty side surfaces. The Panamera punches through the switchback on the way out of town, races up hills, and bounds through a series of sharp turns with an unmistakable spring in its step. You can hear and feel the rotational speed. “In Sport mode, the priorities are rearranged,” explains the engineer. “Speed is the first concern, while comfort and efficiency take a bit of a backseat.” InnoDrive now puts out some twenty percent more acceleration and twenty percent more lateral acceleration in corners.
Markschläger switches back to Normal mode. Now the Panamera coasts down the gradual downhill stretch through the forest beneath the autumnal foliage and past an old mill. Wintry rays of sunshine dance across the dashboard. This is a calm, relaxing state of driving; the gentle curves are all but imperceptible. In the towns, InnoDrive is not much use, as there are too many stop signs, intersections, and traffic lights that were deliberately not implemented. “The driver has to know the limits of the system,” says Markschläger as he brakes at an intersection to let a truck pass. “The driver always has to be aware of traffic. InnoDrive is a comfort assistant, not an autonomous driving function.” Any manual braking maneuver immediately deactivates the assistant, while any manual acceleration temporarily overrides it. And the codriver can be silenced with the push of a button, for moments when the driver wishes to be alone on the road with their Porsche for a spell.