Volkswagen, a well-known player in the realm of self-driving car experiments, is now set to embark on testing its autonomous vehicles in the United States. This month, the renowned automaker will introduce its inaugural fleet of self-driving test vehicles in Austin. Comprising 10 modified ID.Buzz electric vans, these vehicles will utilize Mobileye’s Level 4 self-driving system, offering full autonomy under specific conditions. The purpose of this endeavor is to gather driving data that will be used to “validate and refine” the technology. It’s important to note that these initial prototypes will include safety drivers.
The German brand has intentions to not only expand its fleet in Austin but also extend its testing operations to at least four additional cities in the US. If all goes according to plan, Volkswagen aims to launch a commercial self-driving service in Austin by 2026. Moreover, the company plans to engage third-party partners by providing fleets of driverless ID.Buzz electric vehicles to various mobility and transportation companies. Volkswagen also anticipates employing individuals who were previously associated with the now-defunct autonomous driving startup, Argo AI.
This deployment shouldn’t come as a surprise. While Ford decided to shift its focus to semi-autonomous features in the near term and shut down Argo AI, full self-driving technology continues to be a thriving sector in the US market. GM’s Cruise is expanding the reach of its robotaxis, and Waymo is rapidly increasing its service areas. It is essential for Volkswagen to conduct testing in the US if it wants to compete with these competitors in the realm of robotaxis.
The emphasis on self-driving technology also aligns with Volkswagen’s ongoing transformation into a comprehensive mobility company. The company is adapting to an era where ride-sharing and robotaxis are expected to reduce the necessity for individual car ownership. By venturing into ride-hailing services and fleet agreements, Volkswagen aims to thrive even if its traditional car sales decline over time. However, the success of this strategy depends on the timely development of driverless technology. In the United States, Level 3 autonomy—where the driver must be prepared to regain control—is only just beginning to emerge in passenger cars, and that too under limited circumstances. It may take some time before these platforms progress sufficiently to enable the widespread implementation of autonomous taxis.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about self-driving cars
Q: What is Volkswagen’s plan for testing self-driving cars in the US?
A: Volkswagen plans to deploy a fleet of 10 autonomous ID.Buzz electric vans in Austin, Texas, as part of their testing initiative. These vehicles will utilize Mobileye’s Level 4 self-driving system and collect driving data to refine the technology. Safety drivers will be included in these early prototypes.
Q: What are Volkswagen’s future expansion plans for self-driving car testing?
A: Volkswagen intends to expand its fleet in Austin and extend testing to at least four additional cities in the US. If all goes well, the company aims to launch a commercial self-driving service in Austin by 2026. They also plan to offer fleets of driverless ID.Buzz electric vehicles to other mobility and transportation companies.
Q: How does Volkswagen’s self-driving car testing compare to other companies?
A: Self-driving technology is a competitive field, with companies like GM’s Cruise and Waymo rapidly expanding their services. Volkswagen’s entry into the US market is crucial for it to compete with these robotaxi rivals and establish its presence in the autonomous driving sector.
Q: What is the motivation behind Volkswagen’s emphasis on self-driving technology?
A: Volkswagen is transforming itself into a comprehensive mobility company to adapt to the changing landscape of transportation. They recognize that ridesharing and robotaxis are expected to reduce the need for personal car ownership. By investing in self-driving tech, Volkswagen aims to thrive in the future mobility market, even if traditional car sales decline.
Q: How ready is the technology for widespread implementation of autonomous taxis?
A: While Level 3 autonomy (hands-off motoring with the driver ready to take control) is gradually making its way into passenger cars in the US, the development of platforms advanced enough for large-scale autonomous taxis may take some time. The success of Volkswagen’s strategy depends on the timely progress of driverless technology.