With “Project Qatar Mobility”, Volkswagen announces a concept for autonomous shuttles in cooperation with the Doha public transit network. In many places, the Group is pressing full speed ahead with the future topic of automated driving. An overview.
Volkswagen and the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) in Doha have agreed to launch a state-of-the-art fleet of sustainably powered and commercially operated autonomous shuttles and bus routes in the capital of the Emirate of Qatar, commencing in 2022. Representatives of Volkswagen AG and the Qatar Investment Authority have signed a corresponding agreement for “Project Qatar Mobility” in the presence of numerous dignitaries. Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Scania, MOIA and AID Autonomous Intelligent Driving will play a central role in this project by implementing cross-brand cooperation as a blueprint for future AD solutions.
The future topic of automated driving is being driven forward at full speed in the Volkswagen Group in many areas. At the beginning of 2020, the Group will establish Volkswagen Autonomy (VWAT GmbH) with headquarters in Munich and Wolfsburg. In addition to the company in Germany, a further company is to be established in Silicon Valley in the same year, and one in China in 2021. As a competence center for automated driving from level 4, VWAT will serve to build up central know-how within the Group and bring a self-propelled system (SDS) to market maturity.
Focus on systems engineering
Volkswagen Autonomy is headed by Alexander Hitzinger, Senior Vice President for Autonomous Driving for the Volkswagen Group and Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles in Hanover. Mobility solutions for people and goods in urban areas will be the first application case for Volkswagen Autonomy’s SDS.
“With Volkswagen Autonomy, we want to establish a global technology company in which we bundle competencies from the automotive and technology industries in order to combine agile and creative work in a high-performance culture with process orientation and scalability,” says Alexander Hitzinger.
Volkswagen joins Argo
VWAT GmbH will also cooperate with Argo, among others. The Volkswagen Group had announced last summer that it would acquire a stake in the US company, to the same extent as Ford. The investment is an element of the far-reaching Industrial cooperation with the US carmaker.
Argo develops technologies that are highly relevant for the introduction of autonomous driving. “With this joint investment in Argo AI, we are securing superior engineering expertise for ourselves,” says Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess. “We will gain access to a world-class talent pool of SDS developers and intellectual property, while Argo AI will receive the funding it needs to drive technological leadership in self-propelled systems. With Argo AI’s software developers, we will analyze the huge amounts of data required to understand region-specific driving behavior, road objects, and unique conditions in different locations.”
Road tests in Hamburg
Already in the everyday test phase is a project in which Volkswagen, together with IBM and international universities, is researching the supreme discipline of autonomous driving: self-propelled cars in urban traffic. Lane Assistants and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) already ensure greater safety when driving on motorways and A-roads in many vehicles. In the city, however, automated driving functions are a completely different challenge. The hurdles are much higher there. To overcome them, Volkswagen has joined forces with IBM, the Technical Universities of Cluj-Napoca and Prague and ETH Zurich within the UP-Drive project funded by the European Commission.
Software for automated driving
The newly founded “Car.Software” organization in the Group is also intensively involved in automated and autonomous driving. This activity is one of five areas of the new organization, which will operate as an independent business unit within the Group from January 1, 2020. By 2025 it is to invest more than seven billion euros in its tasks and projects and employ 10,000 experts.
A shuttle in the morning, a garbage truck at night
Traton Group SE is also a pioneer in the commercial vehicle and bus sector. Together with its subsidiary Scania, Traton is advancing a transport infrastructure project in the Swedish municipality of Barkarby near Stockholm, where a pilot site for the development and testing of autonomous driving functions is currently being constructed.
In 2019, Scania also launched two autonomous concept vehicles. The new battery-powered and self-propelled NXT concept vehicle was designed specifically for urban environments. Using a modular system, the NXT can perform various urban tasks: as a shuttle for commuters in the morning and evening, as a delivery vehicle during the day and as a garbage truck at night.
The AXL autonomous concept truck does not require a driver’s cab at all and places the company’s modular system at the center of the design. “With the Scania AXL concept truck, we are taking a significant step towards the smart transport systems of the future, where self-driving vehicles will play a natural part,” says Henrik Henrik Henriksson, President and CEO of Scania.
Europe’s largest all-electric ridesharing service
The Volkswagen subsidiary MOIA not only stands for modern mobility services, but also for a ridepooling system that uses the existing road infrastructure more efficiently and to rid cities of traffic jams, noise and exhaust fumes. This concept plays a central role in the agreement between Volkswagen and the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) in Doha on autonomously running shuttles and bus lines. Since April 2019, MOIA has been setting up Europe’s largest all-electric ridesharing service in Hamburg.
In November MOIA and the transport company RATPDe started the pilot project “Slide Ealing” for ridepooling in the London district of Ealing. The aim is to investigate the willingness of car drivers to switch from their own vehicles to more sustainable mobility services such as ridepooling. In the joint project, MOIA will provide the technology, including the customer and driver apps and the pooling algorithms. A dense network of virtual stops guarantees that customers have to walk a maximum of 200 meters both when entering and exiting the vehicle. Slide Ealing vehicles can use both bus lanes and bus stops.
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