Volkswagen Group (VW) is a German carmaker that is a mother company for such brands as Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti, Porsche, and Lamborghini amongst others. Together with Toyota and General Motors, the company holds leading positions in Europe and in the world in a car market share. Besides passenger cars, VW Group is engaged in trucks, buses, motorcycles, and car spare parts production.
In distant 2006, Volkswagen showed its self-driving car for the first time. It was named Golf GTi “53 plus 1”. Being equipped with radar and laser sensors, the vehicle drove itself on the test track bypassing obstacles.
Volkswagen also took part in DARPA Grand Challenge – the autonomous vehicles’ competition. In 2005 competition, held in a desert, an enhanced VW Touareg won the 1st place. In 2007, in the competition held in city conditions, autonomous VW Passat ranked second.
Volkswagen Driver Assistance
In 2007, the Park Assist system was fist installed on the Touran brand line.
In 2011, Volkswagen showed Temporary Auto Pilot – a driver assistance system – the result achieved by the HAVEit project started in 2008. The technology aims at reducing road accidents levels. Temporary Auto Pilot helped to keep the vehicle in the lane, maintain its speed, make emergency braking, perform sound alarms to a driver distracted from a road, and assist parking. The equipment included cameras, radar, ultrasonic sensors, a laser scanner and ‘electronic horizon’ system. Later, the system was renamed to ‘Driver Assistance’ and it has become widely available in Volkswagen various models since 2016.
Creation of autonomous vehicles
In September 2011, there was a test self-driving debut of VW Passat on the busy streets of Berlin. The car moved through crossroads and traffic lights, but there was a man inside a car.
In November 2015, Raul Rojas, a professor of Nevada University, drove 1500 miles in Mexico in the autonomous Volkswagen Passat.
On September 28, 2015, a concept of fully electric autonomous Volkswagen ID was presented on Paris Motors Show. It will become available in 2020 equipped with SAE Level 4 automation, and in 2025, with SAE Level 5 automation. Depending on the self-driving car configuration, the nominal battery charge will last for 250 to 375 miles run.
The second concept of ID brand was presented on Detroit Motor Show in 2017, named Volkswagen ID Buzz. Most likely, this electric bus is the company’s futuristic view on the self-driving vehicles’ future mostly in the car-sharing programs. Buzz has 8 seats and is capable of riding 270 miles per one charge cycle. It also has the four-wheel drive and a possibility of fully autonomous self-driving as well as turning the seats to face each other.
After 3 months, Volkswagen Group presented another concept of a driverless car named “Sedric” at Geneva auto show. This vehicle has level 5 self-driving technology as it does not have a wheel and the seats are turned to face each other. The vehicle’s passenger compartment is very spacious and it resembles a living room a little. This is a great opportunity for physically disabled people. The vehicle can be called up using OneButton key that also informs about its arrival time. The autonomous car is driven via voice commands including setting the destination, selecting a route and stopping plan, and other functions.
In May 2016, VW invested $300 million in Israeli transport network company Gett. The latter was founded in 2010 under the name Gettaxi and, as well as other car-sharing programs, gained fast popularity. The taxi service works now in Israel, the USA, the United Kingdom, and Russia. It is possible to call a taxicab using an app in a smartphone, via a website or telephone call. It is obvious that the bigger part of driverless cars fleet will participate in car-sharing programs, as driver absence at a wheel significantly decreases taxi companies’ expenses, and taxicabs will cost less than maintaining a personal car.
On December 2016, VW announced the launch of Moia – an innovation company which will research and gradually implement transportation services based on self-driving cars. The company will place greater focus on the mobile services development dealing with transportation. Moia will use electric cars and transport several passengers at once, being in between of public transportation and Uber. The Moia’s potential must be realized before 2025 when self-driving cars will be used on a large scale.
On April 6, 2017, it became known about a partnership between the Chinese VW branch and Mobvoi, a company engaged in smart mobility technology development including voice recognition, speech processing, and in-house technology. Volkswagen Group China invested $180 million in Mobvoi. As part of the partnership, Mobvoi provides its technological solutions to VW, and VW, in its turn, provides a platform to implement Mobvoi’s developments.
On July 7, 2017, VW concluded a partnership with KUKA, a German industrial robots manufacturer. This cooperation has to lead to innovative solutions in car charging and parking. As an example, Tesla released a video about electric car charging self-connection.