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On Sunday, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, a separate VW brand dedicated to the development and sale of light commercial vehicles, and Argo AI, an autonomous driving technology company, introduced the first prototype of the ID Buzz AD (Autonomous Driving).
At the VW night event prior of the 2021 IAA Mobility Event in Munich, the two businesses disclosed plans to test and commercialize the jointly created fully electric self-driving van over the following four years.
The prototype, one of the first five planned test vehicles, is currently being tested at Argo's development center in Neufahrn, near Munich, as well as Argo's nine-hectare closed course near Munich airport, which simulates a variety of traffic situations unique to European driving conditions, and Argo's test track in the United States.
The ID Buzz will be commercially launched in Hamburg in 2025 as part of a self-driving ride-pool system by MOIA, a VW Group company that works with cities and local public transportation companies on mobility solutions. The ride-sharing service is intended to use the potential of autonomous systems to alleviate traffic congestion in urban areas.
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, which has a distinct business unit dedicated to autonomous driving and owns a share in Argo AI, showcased how ridesharing via a self-driving system can help with traffic flow management during the event.
The self-driving system will have An environment recognition system from six lidar, eleven radar and fourteen cameras, distributed over the entire vehicle.
The ID Buzz, a modern spin on the classic microbus that evokes nostalgia as a family camper van, was first presented by VW as a concept car in 2017. The finished product differs from the original campers in that it now has all of the autonomy bells and whistles, including Argo's proprietary sensor Argo Lidar, which sits on top of the Buzz's roof. Argo AI claims that their lidar can detect things from a distance of more than 1,300 feet (400 meters), according to the company.
Argo acquired Princeton Lightwave, a lidar company, four years ago, allowing the company to develop this new, highly accurate sensor with patented Geiger-mode technology that can detect a single photon, the tiniest of light particles, allowing it to capture, detect, and precisely represent low-reflectivity objects like black vehicles.
Argo AI's entire system is made up of sensors and software that give the computer a 360-degree view of the vehicle's surroundings, allowing it to anticipate pedestrian, bicyclist, and vehicle actions and direct the vehicle's engine, braking, and steering systems so that it moves safely and naturally, just like an experienced driver.
This isn't the first time Argo's technology has been utilized to convey passengers to their destinations. Argo and Ford announced plans in July to debut at least 1,000 self-driving vehicles on Lyft's ride-hailing network in places including Miami and Austin over the next five years. The California Public Utilities Commission granted Argo a Drivered AV pilot permit in the same month, allowing it to begin testing on public California highways. Argo AI was reportedly valued at $7.5 billion, over two years after the Volkswagen Group completed its $2.6 billion investment.
The permit, which is part of the state's Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service pilot, adds Argo to a small but growing group of firms looking to go beyond standard AV testing — an indication that the industry, or at least some companies, are getting ready to go commercial. Since 2019, Argo has been testing its self-driving technology in Ford vehicles around Palo Alto. In California, the company's test fleet consists of approximately a dozen self-driving test vehicles
Three years ago, Elon Musk, Tesla's CEO, outlined a vision for a massive fleet of self-driving electric vehicles that owners could share with friends or other riders. The Robotaxi concept for Tesla is to get the self-driving capability to the point that the steering wheels are no longer required. This is why Autopilot got a complete overhaul with the Full Self-Driving system being in Beta testing since the beginning of this year.