One of VW's patent applications has published recently. The application describes the concept of allowing a driver to make some of the driving decisions for an autonomous vehicle, rather than delegating complete responsibility to the vehicle itself.
The publication describes a driving scenario in which an autonomous vehicle is driving behind a slower vehicle. In response to this situation, the vehicle asks the driver whether he/she wants to overtake the slower vehicle. The driver can then confirm that the autonomous vehicle should overtake. Alternatively, the driver may instruct the vehicle not to overtake and to carry on diving normally.
The content of the application indicates that VW sees potential in autonomous vehicles that rely on driver assistance, as opposed to fully-autonomous vehicles.
From a technological perspective, assistance from drivers may be able to fill-in any gaps in an autonomous vehicle's 'intelligence', before these vehicles are 'smart' enough to make the correct driving decision 100% of the time. From a commercial perspective, if drivers feel as though they have more control over autonomous vehicles, they may feel more confident to choose an autonomous vehicle over a conventional one.
From both perspectives, it would seem that driver assistance in autonomous vehicles may provide a necessary interim solution as we progress towards fully-autonomous vehicles.
If, for instance, VW's autonomous vehicle were to approach a slow-moving car ahead, the system would ask the driver if he or she would like to pass the vehicle or remain in the same lane. The small touchscreen on the gearshift knob would then display an option for the driver to push if he or she would like to pass the vehicle.