Although autonomous driving still feels like a far-off concept, it’s already being tested on city streets.
Volkswagen has officially conducted its first public test drive of its prototype autonomous ID. Buzz AD electric people mover on the streets of Munich.
Up until this point, the autonomous people mover was confined to a special test track which simulated public roads.
The German automaker uploaded a video to YouTube showcasing the autonomous test drive with Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess riding as a passenger.
Volkswagen first unveiled the ID Buzz AD at the 2021 Munich motor show.
It’s being developed as part of a joint venture with U.S. start-up Argo AI, with the aim to create the first SAE Level 4 autonomous vehicle for the Volkswagen Group by 2025 for use in Europe and the U.S.
Featuring a raft of cameras, radars and a LiDAR sensor, the team at Argo AI is able to capture a 360-degree map around the vehicle, day or night.
We get a number of short glimpses of what this looks like during the test drive video where it showcases how the surround-view map registers its surroundings.
Argo AI claims its software can detect objects from more than 400 metres away, including pedestrians, cyclists and moving animals.
There are also a range of cloud services and swarm networks that allow the ID Buzz AD to learn its surroundings.
Volkswagen and Argo AI are trying to create the “world’s best driver”, according to Argo AI CEO Brian Salesky.
Argo AI Munich managing director Alex Haag explains that it’s very hard to program the unpredictability of a human, using a person running out at a pedestrian crossing as an example.
During the autonomous test loop a driver keeps their hands very close to the steering wheel throughout so they can take over whenever it’s needed.
The steering wheel moves by itself but it appears the indicators need to be manually triggered.
Volkswagen has previously indicated the ID. Buzz AD will be used as a ride-sharing taxi and delivery van. It previously imagined the ID. Buzz AD as an ambulance as well.
One of these commercial services will be Volkswagen’s subsidiary MOIA, an electric ride-sharing platform.
The regular, all-electric Volkswagen ID. Buzz people mover was revealed in March 2022 along with a cargo-carrying ID. Buzz Cargo variant.
At its launch in Europe there’ll only be a single-electric motor set-up sending 150kW of power and 310Nm of torque to the rear wheels.
This is hooked up to a 77kWh battery pack that supports 11kW AC charging and 170kW DC fast-charging.
A long-wheelbase model with three rows of seating, primarily aimed at the U.S. and Canada, will debut in the not-too-distant future.
Australian availability or timing for the regular ID. Buzz has yet to be confirmed, but Volkswagen Australia has previously shown interest in the car.