On October 28, 2019, German car maker Volkswagen announced the foundation of Volkswagen Autonomy (VWAT), a center of excellence for autonomous driving.
VWAT will take responsibility for Volkswagen Group activities for the development of self-driving systems from Level 4. It will have bases in both Munich and Wolfsburg, Germany, with a Silicon Valley subsidiary to follow in 2020, and a further subsidiary, in China, planned for 2021.
VWAT will serve to develop know-how within the group and bring a self-driving system (SDS) to market maturity. The company will be managed by Alexander Hitzinger, senior vice president for autonomous driving in the Volkswagen Group and member of the Volkswagen Brand Board of Management responsible for technical development at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.
In July, the Volkswagen Group announced closer cooperation in the field of autonomous driving with Ford which, subject to official approvals, includes a stake in ARGO AI, a company specializing in software development for autonomous driving. ARGO AI and VWAT will work closely together to develop the SDS, with VWAT focusing on systems engineering and industrialization. The aim is to establish an SDS as a standard module for all group brands in future.
“We want to establish Volkswagen Autonomy as a global technology company where we bundle expertise from the automotive and technology industries, combining the agility and creativity of a high-performance culture with process orientation and scalability,” explained Hitzinger. “We will continue to use synergies across all group brands to reduce the cost of self-driving vehicles, high-performance computers and sensors. We plan to start commercializing autonomous driving at a large scale around the middle of the next decade.”
The first application cases will be for the commercial sector. Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, as the leading brand for autonomous driving, Mobility as a Service, and Transport as a Service in the group, will develop and build special purpose vehicles (SPV) such as robotaxis and robovans. VWAT will develop the systems.
By the end of 2019, resources from Volkswagen Group research allocated to autonomous driving will be transferred to VWAT.
“Autonomous driving presents the entire industry with major challenges: high development costs, extremely high demands on sensor technology, plus a lack of regulatory systems and heterogeneous regional standards,” said Hitzinger. “Our goal is to build an agile, high-performance development team with the know-how to realize a self-driving system ready to market.”