Volkswagen announced that it would begin testing its new autonomous vehicles in Germany this summer. Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based company backed by Ford and VW, created the hardware and software for the German automaker’s electric ID Buzz vans. The aim is commercial distribution and micro-transit service operation in Germany by 2025. VW and Argo collaboration is a continuation of VW “global alliance” with Ford revealed first in 2019 and introduction of a revenue-generating service using VW electric van based on the iconic mini-bus and Argo fifth generation autonomous driving technology.
Earlier this year Argo and VW have created a mini van prototype that combines VW MEB electric vehicle platform with Argo AV technology including LIDAR sensors, radar and cameras within the body of a VW T6 Transporter. The software also allows the vehicle to “sense” surroundings, prepare for next moves and anticipate movements of other vehicles and pedestrians during autonomous driving both at low and high speed.
VW plans are the van to become part of a ride-sharing fleet operated by its subsidiary Moia. Moia has been running an electric vehicle fleet as part of its “ride-pooling” operation in Hamburg serving over 3 million customers since 2017. Customers’ feedback will be used during the business transition to a fully automated system that will incorporate both consumers and cities’ extremely high and clear requirements for autonomous ride-sharing. Customers’ expectations are ride-sharing to be easy, comfortable and dependable as driving one’s own car, while Cities anticipate ride-sharing to aid in traffic congestion relief.
AV industry has been increasingly consolidating over the last years and hard to keep companies alive with long deadlines and high operating costs as well as minimum expectations for generating sales in the near future. Robotaxis are also thought to be further down the road than other businesses anticipate. Nevertheless, VW and Argo are confident in their ability to meet the deadline before this high-tech industry becomes a massive growth market.