Volkswagen plans self-driving electric microbus with Argo AI by 2025

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A rendering of the electric ID.Buzz microvan from Volkswagen equipped with Argo AI’s self-dricing technology.


Volkswagen is planning to bring to market by 2025 a version of its upcoming microbus, a retro-styled electric van, with the ability to drive itself in certain circumstances, the automaker announced Wednesday.

VW is developing the vehicle with Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based autonomous vehicle start-up backed by the German automaker and Ford Motor. Testing of the ID.Buzz vans to transport people and goods is expected to begin this summer in Munich, according to the companies.

“Our aim with the self-driving version of the ID.Buzz is to facilitate commercial deployment of transport and delivery services starting in 2025,” Christian Senger, head of autonomous driving at VW’s van unit, said in a press release.  

The ID.Buzz models are expected to offer what is known as Level 4 autonomy, which means drivers will not be required to take control but the vehicles can only operate in specific conditions such as geofenced areas or defined routes. That compares with fully autonomous systems at Level 5.

Current driver-assist technologies such as General Motors’ Super Cruise or Tesla’s Autopilot that require constant driver supervision are considered Level 2. The systems use a host of onboard cameras, sensors and radar to drive the vehicle. Some also use high-definition mapping and other technology.

Argo is currently testing its self-driving technology in six U.S. cities using Ford vehicles. The company last week unveiled its own lidar, which many believe is the key technology to commercializing autonomous vehicles. Lidar will be used on the ID.Buzz, Argo’s first VW test vehicle, as well as Ford models, the company said.

Lidars, or light detection and ranging systems, can sense surroundings and help cars avoid obstacles. They use light to create high-resolution images that provide a more accurate view of the world than cameras or radar alone.

Lidar offers ultra-high resolution perception, providing the photorealistic imaging required to identify small objects for safe operation on complex city streets.


Argo CEO Bryan Salesky told Blomberg News last week that the company will raise additional funding this summer, followed potentially by an initial public offering “in the future.”

“We’ll be looking at an IPO in the future as well. I think that it’s one of those things where we don’t know the exact source we’re going to take the funding from next. We’re looking at a bunch of options,” he said, adding a deal with a SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company, is a possibility.

Bloomberg previously reported Argo was considering a public listing as soon as this year.

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