Volkswagen has founded a new arm, VW Autonomy (VWAT), which will be based out of offices in Munich and Wolfsburg, with plans to expand into Silicon Valley in 2020 and China the following year. Using artificial intelligence from American software company Argo AI, and financial backing and technology from Ford, the group intends to develop and bring Level 4 self-driving systems to market over the next decade.
Alexander Hitzinger, board of management member for development at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said, “Argo AI is technologically one of the leading companies for developing self-driving systems. Volkswagen and Ford possess enormous experience in automobile construction. Hardware and software experts in these three companies will work closely together to find optimal solutions. The closeness of this collaboration is shown by the fact that Volkswagen is bringing Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID), with over 200 experts, into the operation. This will give Argo AI access to around 700 specialists. The AID headquarters in Munich will become the joint venture’s European technological center.”
The first vehicles to benefit from the collaboration will be in the light commercial sector in the shape of robo-taxis and robo-vans. With Level 4 autonomous driving and beyond, safety is the top priority for all manufacturers. While driver aids have undoubtedly reduced the number of fatalities on roads, the public will only embrace the shift to autonomous vehicles if there’s a marked improvement in collision rates compared with human drivers.
The VWAT group will develop, verify and validate all its systems before beginning trials in the next few years.