Volkswagen claims that the self-driving ID Buzz will serve as a basis for the company’s full-scale commercial ride-hailing and delivery service, which it hopes to deploy in Germany in 2025.
The automobile giant aims to test the ID Buzz on public roads in Munich, as well as on a private track near the airport. The van had its public debut in Munich at the 2021 IAA Mobility Event, which also included new Mercedes-Benz and BMW concepts.
The company invested a staggering $2.6 billion in Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based firm financed by Ford and VW which at the time saw its valuation rise to $7 billion. (That valuation has since increased to $12.4 billion as the company explores a public offering.) Argo opened an office in Munich and absorbed VW’s autonomous driving team that was based there.
Argo AI developed the hardware and software for the vans. The manufacturers created a “global alliance” in 2019 to collaborate on electric and autonomous car development in order to share the costs of what is projected to be a costly and time-consuming process.
Argo currently uses modified Ford vehicles for its testing in the US and has yet to reveal its own purpose-built AV like some of its competitors. The self-driving ID Buzz will be a more fully realized version of Argo’s AV hardware and software, including the company’s 400-meter range lidar sensors developed in-house.
For the past few years, Argo has been testing its fourth-generation vehicles in cities such as Miami, Austin, and Washington, DC, as well as Pittsburgh, Detroit, and California.
Source: The Verge
Volkswagen said that it plans to put the vans in service as a ride-sharing fleet under its subsidiary Moia. Since 2017, Moia has been operating a fleet of electric vehicles as part of its “ride-pooling” service in Hamburg, where it has served 3 million customers to date. Those customers have provided a treasure trove of feedback that will come into use as the company shifts to a completely autonomous fleet by 2025.
Robotaxis, in particular, is thought to be further down the road than most corporations anticipate. VW and Argo said they are confident in their capacity to meet the deadline.
Argo CEO Bryan Salesky has been more realistic about the timeline than most executives, telling The Verge in a recent podcast interview that the technology will be “ready when it’s ready.”
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