Volkswagen is opening a North American center of excellence for autonomous vehicle R&D under a new subsidiary, Volkswagen Autonomy, Inc. The new center is part of a global subsidiary, Volkswagen Autonomy GmbH, that will work toward making self-driving vehicles a reality.
The center will be based at VW’s Innovation and Engineering Center California in Belmont and anticipates hiring 50 to 100 experts in systems engineering and architecture this year. The firm adds that Volkswagen Autonomy will leverage all of Volkswagen Group’s technology partnerships, with a goal of commercializing autonomous technology in the future.
“With our Volkswagen Autonomy subsidiary in Silicon Valley, we want to tap into one of the largest talent pools for autonomous technology in the world and combine it with our global scale and eight decades of experience in vehicle production,” said Alexander Hitzinger, CEO of Volkswagen Autonomy. “We see this work finding use across our Group brands as we tackle technological challenges and cost hurdles to make the promise of autonomous driving a reality.”
Volkswagen Autonomy already has offices in Munich and anticipates opening another subsidiary in China soon. The unit will handle all work for the Volkswagen Group in helping develop autonomous systems that have the potential to handle multiple stages of autonomous driving functions.
The Group expects the first use cases for autonomous vehicles to come in the commercial sector and Volkswagen Autonomy will develop the production systems that integrate into VW commercial vehicles used for such tasks as autonomous taxis or goods transportation – as demonstrated in the ID Buzz electric concept. The company also sees great promise for autonomous vehicles in urban centers to help reduce pollution and congestion.
Meanwhile in a separate development, Volkswagen has announced that it will be one of the beneficiaries of data collected by a new cooperative project on the A39 highway (Autobahn 39) in Lower Saxony, Germany. Anonymized traffic flow information will be collected on a 7km stretch between the Wolfsburg-Königslutter intersection and the municipality of Cremlingen. VW hopes to use the real-world data, and expand on it in simulations, to help improve assisted driving software.
Beyond the data collection, pWLAN technology has been installed on the highway for development purposes. It enables direct communication between vehicles and with traffic infrastructure. Car2X technology is already standard equipment on the new Volkswagen Golf and will be used in future on the ID.31.