Volkswagen Group’s plan to launch a fleet of self-driving VW ID.Buzz electric vans operated by its Moia mobility business in 2025 remains on track, despite news this week that its former lead unit on the technology, Argo AI, has shut down.
VW Group together with Ford were the main backers of Argo AI, but both automakers decided to cease additional funding for the startup, citing the slow road to commercialization of its self-driving technology.
Ford is scaling back its self-driving ambitions, having announced on Wednesday during the presentation of its third-quarter financial results that it will now focus on developing in-house self-driving technology ranked at Level 2 and 3 on the SAE scale of self-driving cars. However, VW Group is pushing ahead with its plan to launch a Level 4 robotaxi service.
Level 4 signifies a vehicle can drive on its own for extended periods but within certain conditions, the main one typically being within a geofenced area containing highly detailed map data. Level 3 is the first level in which a driver can take their eyes off the road, though only for short periods. The driver also has to be ready to take back control at any time. Level 5 is for some companies the ultimate goal, where a self-driving car matches the capability of a human.
VW Group on Wednesday said it is continuing to develop its robotaxi service with a new partner which will be revealed soon. VW Group and the new partner are testing self-driving Volkswagen ID.Buzz electric vans on public roads, and will use the vans for the eventual commercial service. VW Group said the service will run in 2025 in parts of the German city of Hamburg, and has hinted the service may start testing on U.S. roads in 2023.
The automaker will also rely on its in-house software development business Cariad for self-driving technology. Cariad is developing a self-driving system for private vehicles and in August announced a multibillion-dollar deal with Innoviz for the supply of lidar sensors. Cariad is also working with the companies Bosch and Horizon Robotics on self-driving technology and is expected to absorb some of the assets and staff of Argo AI.
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