VW starts testing Kombi-inspired autonomous ID.Buzz vans in Munich
After first floating the concept of a futuristic electric minibus complete with an augmented reality HUD and removable dash a few years ago, Volkswagen has now offered the first glimpse of its self-driving ID.Buzz. Modeled on the classic Type 2 Kombi vans embraced by the hippie movement, the ID.Buzz is being developed as a vehicle for autonomous ride-sharing, and early prototypes of the van are due to soon begin testing in Munich.
Volkswagen revealed its futuristic ID.Buzz minivan concept in 2017, and it recently emerged that the automaker would be partnering with autonomous technology startup Argo AI to fit it out with self-driving capabilities. Through its mobility subsidiary Moia, VW's plan is to one day have production versions of the ID.Buzz act as the backbone of an autonomous ride-sharing service to ease congestion in city centers.
Such a future is still a ways off, but the company has taken to this year's IAA Mobility motor show in Munich to share a taste of what it's been working on. The company took the opportunity to present one of the first five self-driving, fully electric ID.Buzz prototypes, and detailed its plans around testing in the area.
The Buzz AD prototypes, as they are known, use Argo AI's autonomous driving technology, which relies on cameras, radar and a large LiDAR sensor perched on the roof. Onboard computer software builds a 360-degree image of the surroundings as the Buzz AD moves through the streets, predicting the movement of pedestrians, bikes and other vehicles and controlling the engine, braking and steering accordingly.
According to VW, the current prototypes can detect objects from more than 400 m (1,300 ft) away and, using a patented technology it calls Geiger-mode, detects single photons of light to reveal objects with low reflectivity, like darker vehicles. This is the company's first vehicle fitted out with SAE Level 4 autonomy.
These prototypes are currently undergoing testing at a closed facility within the Munich international airport, but VW and Argo AI plan to soon begin testing on the city streets of the greater Munich area. Ultimately, the goal is to use self-driving ID.Buzzes for a Moia autonomous ride-sharing service in Hamburg in 2025.
"Cities all over the world want to make their traffic more efficient and more climate-friendly," says Moia CEO Robert Henrich. "Autonomous ride pooling improves urban mobility, increases road safety and makes cities more attractive. Hamburg will be the first city to offer autonomous ride pooling."
You can check out the short promo video below.