Starting in 2022, Volkswagen, together with two Israeli technology companies, will launch a ride-hailing service with self-driving electric vehicles on the country's roads.
Self-driving vehicles, electrically powered, available at the touch of a button – the Volkswagen Group is working to implement this vision in projects around the globe. The latest element in this large-scale mobility strategy is a cooperation with two companies in Israel.
Together with Mobileye, a subsidiary of Intel and a global leader in autonomous driving, and Champion Motors, which is specialized in vehicle distribution, fleet logistics and infrastructure, the Volkswagen Group is planning to launch a ride-hailing service with self-driving electric vehicles in Israel from 2022 onwards. A joint venture established specifically for this purpose will start operations at the beginning of 2019.
The Volkswagen Group will provide the electric vehicles and contribute its extensive know-how and mobility services expertise. The pilot project will get off the ground with a few dozen vehicles, but the plan is that the fleet will soon grow into the hundreds. Named “New Mobility in Israel”, the joint project proposal has already been accepted by the government.
Israel – the digital skills center
Although the country is barely larger than the German state of Hesse, Israel has turned itself into a global center for high-tech and IT expertise. No other country has a higher startup density, and after the USA, Israel is considered the world’s most successful startup nation.
“Here, the short lifecycles of the market are matched by a creative eco system and a corresponding mindset”, says Stephanie Vox, Head of Volkswagen Group Campus Tel Aviv Konnect, a Volkswagen subsidiary, which connects the Group with Israeli startups and supports the brands in their innovation projects.
Israel is a valuable source of new mobility technologies as well as Cyber security, AI, smart data and sensors. Therefore it is important that Konnect is present locally and initiates collaborations and projects with relevant startups for our Group brands.
Especially Tel Aviv has a high concentration of digital expertise: modeled on the USA’s Silicon Valley, the Israeli coastal city even has its own Silicon Wadi.
In addition to extensive digital know-how another factor that makes Israel so attractive as a location for operating self-driving electric vehicles is the government’s support. Companies like the Volkswagen Group, Mobileye and Champion Motors get access to the country’s infrastructure and the cities’ traffic data. What is more, Israel’s government has undertaken to support the project by creating the corresponding legal and regulatory framework.
Five levels to the self-driving car
In addition to technical challenges, legal issues are a key aspect of autonomous driving. The road to the fully self-driving vehicle passes through five levels: assisted, partially automated, highly automated, fully automated and, ultimately, autonomous. The Volkswagen Group, Mobileye and Champion Motors want to put level 4 self-driving vehicles on the road. This means that all driving tasks will be performed by the technical systems – all manual vehicle control is relinquished.
For this to happen, there must be a corresponding legal framework. And the Israeli government has promised that this will be in place. To date, Germany’s legal framework only allows level 3 vehicles. Drivers in level 3 cars may pay attention to things other than road traffic; however, as soon as the system sends a signal to the driver, they are obliged to take the wheel.