Testing begins this summer.
To speed up the development of autonomous cars, Ford and Volkswagen partnered to invest in technology company Argo AI. The Pittsburg-based firm recently announced a piece of breakthrough Lidar technology that can see further and navigate left-hand turns using only a single sensor. Ford and Volkswagen will each benefit from this innovation with the latter announcing plans to begin international trials of autonomous driving using the all-electric ID.Buzz van.
For those who have already forgotten, the ID.Buzz is a concept vehicle based on the same MEB architecture used on the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4. It will come in passenger and cargo versions when it eventually arrives on the market. The first European Argo AI test site will open this summer in Munich, Germany. By then we should see a realistic version of the ID.Buzz, not a concept, rendering, or test mule wearing a different body.
"Our aim with the self-driving version of the ID. Buzz is to facilitate commercial deployment of transport and delivery services starting in 2025," said Christian Senger, divisional director at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. "In select cities, customers will be able to have a self-driving vehicle take them to their destination. The delivery of goods and packages will also be made much easier through our autonomous driving service."
Senger's comments make an interesting distinction regarding the "self-driving" ID.Buzz, which will deploy Level 4 autonomous technology. This vehicle will not be available for private customers to purchase, like an ID.4, but will instead be owned by commercial businesses with limited access for individual consumers.
As a reminder, a Level 4 autonomous vehicle can drive itself but still includes a steering wheel and pedals for the driver to take control under certain circumstances. Cadillac Super Cruise and Tesla Autopilot are among the most advanced systems privately available right now on a production car sold in the United States, and those are only Level 2. Ride-share service Moia (a VW subsidiary) will be the first to deploy the ID.Buzz in Germany.
"Moia has extensive experience in the field of mobility services and fleet management. Within a very short time, we have set up Europe's largest, all-electric ride pooling service and provided mobility to millions of passengers," said managing director Robert Henrich. "We will bring this expertise to the cooperation with Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles and Argo AI. Hamburg will be the first city to offer an autonomous ride pooling service with an ID. Buzz."