The reborn microbus is destined to be an autonomous ride hailing vehicle.
The microbus-inspired ID.Buzz is Volkswagen's most hotly anticipated vehicle, and the production version is due to be revealed later this year. When Volkswagen showed off the concept in 2017, it was clear that the German automaker was thinking a long way ahead with the little electric van. It was adorned with ultrasonic sensors, radar sensors, side area view cameras, and a front camera. Most tellingly, though, the driver's seat could be turned to face backward. Volkswagen planned for the ID.Buzz to become autonomous, but now it has announced that it will be the first Volkswagen vehicle to take to the streets without needing a driver, and not the new ID.4.
Investors, tech companies, and automakers are betting big that autonomously driven ride-hailing is going to disrupt the automotive industry. Volkswagen has been preparing for the shift in how people will use cars in the future, and that's one of the ways it sees the multi-faceted ID.Buzz being used.
"This year, for the first time, we are conducting field trials in Germany, in which the self-driving system by Argo AI will be used in a version of the future ID. Buzz by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles," explains Christian Senger, Head of Autonomous Driving. "The aim is to develop a ride-hailing and pooling concept similar to what MOIA (Volkswagen Group's ride-sharing service company) offers today. In the middle of this decade, our customers will then have the opportunity to be taken to their destination in selected cities with autonomous vehicles."
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles isn't the only automaker invested heavily in Argo AI, a company specializing in Autonomous Driving software platforms. Ford has an equal stake in the company, while Volkswagen also merged its AID (Autonomous Intelligent Driving) subsidiary into Argo AI.
Along with the announcement, Volkswagen revealed a new rendering of the autonomous ID.Buzz. It has a more streamlined lower grille, and a few other small design features bringing it right up to date, but it mostly looks just like the original concept.