Volkswagen announced that it will begin testing autonomous vehicles in the United States, starting with a fleet of driverless ID. Buzz electric microbuses. The test will take place on public roads in Austin, Texas, starting later this month, using a fleet of ten self-driving vehicles equipped with partner Mobileye’s technology.
The news comes after the German automaker, which had previously made a misstep by investing in Ford's now closed self-driving car unit, Argo, has been partnering with supplier Mobileye.
The strategic change in direction saw VW bring the development of its driverless technology in-house under the supervision of Mobileye, pioneers in driver-assist technology for 20 years.
Volkswagen ADMT: Another New Subsidiary
The company will create a new subsidiary called Volkswagen ADMT, with offices in Austin and Belmont, California. Employees from the failed EV company, Argo, will staff this new division.
Autonomous ID. Buzz vehicles with fleet management and “remote guidance solutions” will also be sold to “other leading companies in the mobility and transportation space,” the company said.
The aim of these tests is to bring driverless goods delivery and ride-hailing services to the US in 2025. A mission many other automotive companies have tried at but not yet achieved in the past decade.
Volkswagen has already been testing its self-driving ID. Buzz in Germany, where it plans to launch commercial robotaxi and delivery services in 2025. VW plans to offer this service via another of their subsidiaries, Moia.
VW’s autonomous driving software is developed by Cariad, yet another subsidiary of Volkswagen, which recently appointed Bentley's production boss, Peter Bosch, to turn around its struggling division in a shake up which saw several other of Cariad’s C-suite replaced.
What’s the Buzz About the ID. Buzz?
The ID. Buzz is a new electric vehicle from Volkswagen that is inspired by the much-loved classic Microbus of the 1960s and 1970s. The self-driving version of the ID. Buzz will be equipped with a variety of sensors and software that will allow it to navigate roads and avoid obstacles without human intervention. The electric vehicle, which was introduced publicly last month, will be available to buy in 2024.
Volkswagen chose Austin as the location for its self-driving testing program because the city has a reputation for being supportive of innovation and has a favorable climate for autonomous vehicle testing. The company plans to test the ID. Buzz in a variety of driving scenarios, including in traffic, on highways, and in urban areas.
The testing program is part of Volkswagen's broader strategy to develop self-driving technology. The company has said that it plans to launch a commercial self-driving ride-hailing service in the United States and Europe by 2026.
In a decade-long pursuit to bring safe, driverless vehicles to the public, the testing of these cars is still in its early stages but is gaining momentum as more and more companies invest in this technology. Volkswagen's testing program in Austin is a significant milestone in the development of self-driving vehicles, and it is likely to be closely watched by other companies in the industry.