In July 2023, Volkswagen Group of America (VWGoA) will begin its very first autonomous vehicle test program in Austin, Texas. The program will see 10 all-electric ID. Buzz vehicles equipped with an autonomous driving technology co-developed by the Volkswagen Group and Mobileye.
Over the next three years, VWGoA aims to scale its test fleet in Austin and expand testing operations to at least four more US cities. VWGoA estimates that the AVs will launch commercially in Austin in 2026.
“We are thrilled to bring our exciting ID. Buzz vehicles to American roads,” said Pablo Di Si, president and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America. “Expanding Volkswagen Group’s global autonomous driving vehicle program to the United States marks an important milestone for us. In the future, we will tap into rising demand for new mobility services, and with our iconic ID. Buzz, we will also offer a truly captivating product to support transportation services American consumers can rely upon and trust.”
VWGoA will be responsible for leading strategy and business development in the USA, and has established the Volkswagen ADMT subsidiary to support the rollout of the AD vehicle program, with teams in Belmont, California, and Austin, Texas. VWGoA also plans to employ people who have previously worked for Argo AI. The ID. Buzz vehicles within the test fleet will be provided by the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles brand in Germany.
Going forward, the OEM is looking to offer specially designed fleets of ID. Buzz autonomous vehicles as a comprehensive service, consisting of fleet management and remote guidance solutions for other companies within the mobility and transportation sector. VWGoA stated, however, that it has no plans currently to establish a ride hailing/sharing service.
“Expanding our autonomous vehicle program to the North American Region is the next step in our global strategic roadmap, and the result of a long-term collaborative investment,” said Christian Senger, member of the board of management of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles with responsibility for the development of autonomous driving. “Moving into this next phase will help us test, validate and refine technology, bring us closer to establishing commercially available transportation offerings and eventually grow the diverse mobility portfolio for the Volkswagen Group.”
The expanding test fleet in Austin will be used to collect a variety of data across a wide range of driving scenarios. The SAE Level 4 ID. Buzz vehicles feature cameras, radar and lidar technology. At present, all of the test vehicles will feature a human driver at all times to supervise during the initial test phase.
“We are excited and ready to roll out our autonomous pilot and test fleet in Austin,” said Katrin Lohmann, president, Volkswagen ADMT. “We selected Austin as the first US hub, as the city has a track record for embracing innovation and offers a conducive climate for the testing of autonomous vehicles. We are committed to continuing an open and collaborative dialog with the city and its diverse stakeholders.”
To find out about Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ approach to ODD definition, please click here.