The world of autonomous vehicles is constantly shifting, so we won't be offended if you didn't know, for example, that Volkswagen has been working on self-driving cars in partnership with Ford and Argo AI. Indeed, VW has just announced plans to have its first autonomous vehicle operating on the road by 2025 — and that first vehicle is going to be a variant of the ID. Buzz, VW's upcoming electric van that pays homage to the classic VW Bus and will debut next year.
The self-driving Buzzes will be used by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, with the plan being to use them for ride-hailing and/or carpooling services starting in select cities. So picture a taxi service operating within a bounded geographic area — or, if that proves too complex to start with, you could have a fleet of VWs constantly looping around like buses following prescribed routes.
Fleet applications like these, of course, are where we should see autonomous driving technology first. Set, limited tasks are relatively simple to program; a personal vehicle, which would also need functionality as a traditional driven vehicle at the outset, would be much harder to automate. The technology and camera sensors also will be too expensive for passenger vehicles, at least at the start.
VW also noted a separate investment to bring Level 4 self-driving, which would permit vehicles to operate autonomously without driver input in geofenced areas like city centers and major highways, to the "private mobility sector" across its brands. No timeline is given for that endeavor.
Will Volkswagen be the first manufacturer to market with an autonomous car? That remains unclear. Google's Waymo runs tests for autonomous ride-hailing in certain locations in Arizona — locations that are very well mapped and have very consistent weather. Elon Musk says Teslas will be Level 5 capable by the end of 2021...but his target of "at least 100 percent safer than a human driver," which would still lead to thousands of deaths per year, may not be deemed an acceptable safety standard.