Germany’s largest car company, Volkswagen, is now facing the next challenge after a hesitant but now vigorously initiated switch from combustion vehicles to electric cars: autonomous driving. The scale of the challenge is evident from the fact that Volkswagen had to bring Argo.ai on board as a partner. Two years ago, VW invested 2.6 billion U.S. dollars (2.2 billion euros) in Argo.
In the run-up to the IAA in Munich, the two companies unveiled their first joint autonomous test vehicle. It is an electric ID Buzz, the electrified new version of the VW Bus, equipped with sensor and software technology for autonomous driving from Argo.
As seen in an initial teaser video, the vehicle includes a Long Range Argo LiDAR on the roof, multiple Hesai Pandar QT LiDARs around the vehicle – two in the front and one in the rear, plus one on each side – plus at least 7 cameras in the roof structure, plus two cameras in the rear.
Testing with the first of five planned experimental ID Buzz AD (Autonomous Driving) vehicles has already begun and is expected to lead to the launch of an autonomous robot cab fleet in Hamburg under the MOIA cab service in 2025.
Unlike GM Cruise with the Cruise Origin or Zoox with its own specially designed robotaxi, VW is relying on a traditional vehicle model here: a minibus, but it may become apparent during development that the ID Buzz will have to undergo corresponding design changes.
Argo itself, together with Ford, plans to put close to 1,000 autonomous vehicles on the road as Lyft cabs in Miami and Austin over the next 5 years.
Either way, Argo and VW need to get hurry. In the U.S., two partially driverless robotaxi fleets – one in Phoenix, one in San Francisco – are already in operation for the public by Waymo, and another robotaxi fleet in San Francisco by GM Cruise will launch later this year. And Chinese manufacturers aren’t sleeping either. AutoX, Pony.AI and others have already launched or are about to launch robotaxi fleets for the public. A projection of more robotic taxi fleets sees the first robotaxif-leets operating in a European city between 2023 and 2025.
Here now the video of the ID Buzz AD:
This article was also published in German.