Volkswagen is stepping up its efforts to develop fully driverless cars by running its own startup that it claims to be among the & # 39; best funded & # 39; belongs to the world. Volkswagen Autonomy, or VWAT, plans to bring robot taxis & lorries & lorries & # 39; s to three continents by 2025, according to the Financial times.
The news comes less than three months after VW announced it would invest $ 2.6 billion in Argo AI, the Pittsburgh-based autonomous vehicle software startup that is also supported by VW rival Ford. In an uncertain future, the two global car manufacturers said they would join forces to build pick-up trucks and commercial vehicles, as well as electric cars and AVs.
Now VW is going a step further in creating its own subsidiary focused on the development and deployment of so-called Level 4 autonomous vehicles, cars that do not require human interaction, but only in a defined setting. The automaker will incorporate Audi & # 39; s Autonomous Intelligent Driving unit into what will later become the European headquarters of Argo AI in Munich FT.
The first project of the startup will be self-driving freight and passenger versions of the upcoming VW minibus, the I.D. Buzz, developed in collaboration with the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles brand. Over the years, the car manufacturer has exhibited numerous autonomous concept vehicles at car shows, but the I.D. Buzz seems to be the one who generated the most (you guessed it) buzz.
VWAT will be led by Alexander Hitzinger, who since January 2019 manages the company's commercial business department, as well as his self-driving car and mobility-as-service programs. Previously was Hitzinger technical management with the Porsche LMP1 prototype. He has also worked with Red Bull Racing in Formula 1. And he worked at Apple on his mysterious Project Titan self-driving car program. VWAT "will be part of" & # 39; the world's best funded start-up, "Hitzinger said FT.
Like most automotive industries, VW is clearly lagging behind its competitors in autonomous vehicle space, such as Alphabet's Waymo and GM's # 39; s Cruise. The German car manufacturer is gambling a lot of money that it can catch up: in addition to the $ 2.6 billion it has sunk into Argo AI, VW said it would spend $ 91 billion to massively produce profitable electric vehicles – a performance that almost no car manufacturer has achieved.
A month ago VW broke off a collaboration with Aurora Innovation, the autonomous startup founded by former Google self-driving head Chris Urmson. Argo was co-founded by Bryan Salesky, another former member of the Google self-driving team. He also sat on the same team as Urmson in the 2007 DARPA autonomous vehicle challenge, which is seen as a turning point in the pursuit of self-driving cars.
Ford dumped $ 1 billion in Argo in 2017 and has been working closely with the startup ever since. The Detroit-based car manufacturer has said that by 2020 & # 39; on a scale & # 39; self-driving cars.
VW has been attracted to the self-driving space, but this seems to be the most serious effort made by the automaker to date. A year ago Volkswagen said it would collaborate with Mobileye, Intel's computer vision company, to launch a commercial self-driving service in Israel in 2019.
The VW news comes after a series of self-driving news from major car and technology companies. Hyundai launches a robot taxi service in Irvine, California in November. Toyota plans to offer one in Tokyo that coincides with the 2020 Summer Olympics. Ford has said it will launch an autonomous ride in the US "to scale" from 2020. GM has recently postponed the launch date of its taxi service to na 2019. AV startup Zoox offers rides in its AV & # 39; s in Las Vegas. Didi Chuxing is preparing to do the same in China from 2021. And Waymo, most regarded as the leader in space, is now starting to offer limited journeys in his completely driverless minibuses on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona.