IAA MOBILITY in Munich is all about the future of intelligent transport. To kick off the event, the Volkswagen Group is demonstrating how autonomous driving can improve safety and reduce traffic congestion in city centres.
Sporting a black and white camouflage outfit, the prototype of the fully-electric ID.BUZZ AD (AD - Autonomous Driving) rolls into the hall with a quiet hum. Guests at the New Auto Night, within walking distance of Munich’s famous Viktualienmarkt market, are witnessing a real novelty. There have been five prototypes from Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles (VWN). In the future, these vehicles could be a matter of course on many roads: from 2025, the production versions of the ID.BUZZ AD will be used by mobility services like MOIA.
Herbert Diess, CEO of the Volkswagen Group, makes it clear that autonomous driving is a game changer for mobility. Autonomous cars will completely change the world, he says in a discussion with Bryan Salesky, founder and CEO of development partner Argo AI. The company with its headquarters in Pittsburgh (USA) is collaborating with leading automobile manufacturers, including Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, to develop driverless vehicles.
Focus on city centres
Diess underlines the fact that the partnership between an established car maker and a tech company like Argo AI provides ideal conditions, in which to solve the challenges of autonomous driving – and earns the approval of Salesky. The cooperation is close and transparent. Volkswagen and Argo decided from the outset to focus their development work on the particularly complex case of inner-city traffic, explains Salesky.
The Argo CEO feels there is good cause for this orientation: city centres are home to a particularly large number of people, who could benefit from the advantages of autonomous driving services. One of the biggest plus points is the increased safety, as a driverless system never gets tired or loses concentration – unlike a human driver. Plus, autonomous shuttles need not park on the doorstep and block roads, parking spaces or driveways. The result: more space for pedestrians and cyclists.
A self-driving system (SDS) consists of a string of sensors, software and computers, which allow 360 degrees of visibility around the car. The goal is to use the constant analysis of this diverse range of information to predict the actions of pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles, and to control the engine, brakes and steering according to the situation.
“More efficient and environmentally-friendly”
In 2025, Volkswagen subsidiary MOIA will become the first user of the autonomous ID.BUZZ AD. “Cities all over the world want to make their traffic more efficient and environmentally-friendly. Autonomous ridepooling can improve urban mobility, increase safety in traffic, and thus make cities more liveable locations,” says CEO Robert Henrich.
However, the first city with an autonomous ridepooling service with the ID. BUZZ will not be Munich, but 800 kilometres further north: Hamburg, where MOIA launched its first service in a city of over a million inhabitants in 2019.