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  6. When science fiction comes true

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When science fiction comes true

Imagine the scene: a camper van from Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles hums gently towards you. Its body is clad in black and white camouflage colours. Up on the roof there is a futuristic construction. The vehicle inches closer, more slowly all the time until it comes to a stop just in front of you. You notice that the driver’s hands are not on the wheel ...

ID. Buzz AD
The vehicle has not gone on sale.

Technology for autonomous driving
What may sound a little like a science fiction film actually happened (or something similar) a short time ago when one of the first five self-driving ID. Buzz AD1) prototypes made its appearance at IAA Mobility 2021 in Munich. The AD in the model name stands for autonomous driving. The vehicle itself is based on the future all-electric Bulli1) from Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles – and is set to be rolled out as a production version with mobility services like MOIA from 2025.

The Bavarian state capital is also the first location where the prototypes will be trialled in Germany. Development partner Argo AI (the abbreviation stands for artificial intelligence) is currently testing the technology that makes the self-driving system (SDS) possible. Of course, all official approvals for the test operation have been obtained.  

The precise data for the intelligent software is supplied by a combination of laser, radar and camera systems, providing a very realistic picture of the traffic situation in city centres where the self-driving ID.BUZZ AD1) will soon transport its passengers to their destination. The long-range lidar laser scanner mounted high above the roof catches the eye in particular. In contrast to radar systems, it operates with light waves and can detect objects at a distance of up to 400 metres. Its patented Geiger mode also has the capability to detect even the smallest particles (a photon), which means that even very weakly reflective objects are detected.

Developing new transport services
The collaboration between Argo AI and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles in the development centre in Neufahrn near Munich is based on the parallel SDS development in the US. In addition to its test route in the US, Argo AI has a nine-hectare closed course at Munich Airport so that it can also test for a variety of traffic situations unique to European driving conditions. “The new ID.Buzz AD1) test fleet is a milestone in our partnership with Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles”, concludes Bryan Salesky, Founder and CEO of Argo AI. “Building on our five years of development and learnings from our operations in large, complex US cities, we are excited to soon begin testing on the streets of Munich in preparation for the launch of the self-driving commercial ride-pooling service with MOIA.”

With their plans for developing autonomous transportation services, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Argo AI and MOIA are demonstrating how the volume of traffic in city centres can be reduced with ride-pooling and also made safer with the driverless system. “An environment recognition system from six lidar, 11 radar and 14 cameras, distributed over the entire vehicle, can capture much more than any human driver can from his seat”, said Christian Senger, head of autonomous driving at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has developed a separate business unit devoted to autonomous driving and acquired a stake in Argo AI.

Find out more about the ID. Buzz


1) ID. Buzz and ID. Buzz AD: The vehicles are not offered for sale.

Status: 28. January 2022

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