Although autonomous driving is not-to-distant into the future, self driving cars are still being trial and tested by various Automotive big names. One such big name is Volkswagen, who has just established its subsidiary Volkswagen Autonomy to develop autonomous driving cars. Volkswagen Autonomy will be based in Munich, Wolfsburg, the Silicon Valley and China. The sites in Germany would come up first then the U.S. in 2020 and China in 2021.
The Volkswagen Autonomy sites, known as a center of excellence for autonomous driving from Level 4, will serve to build up know-how within VW and bring a self-driving system (SDS) to market maturity. The company will be managed by Alexander Hitzinger, Senior Vice President for autonomous driving in Volkswagen and Member of the Volkswagen Brand Board of Management responsible for Technical Development at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles (VWCV).
In July, Volkswagen announced closer cooperation in the field of autonomous driving with Ford which includes a stake in ARGO AI, a company specialized in the software development for autonomous driving. ARGO AI and VW Autonomy will work closely together on the realization of the self-driving system (SDS). In the development of the SDS VW Autonomy will put a strong focus on systems engineering and industrialization. The aim is to establish an SDS as a standard module for all VW brands in future.
Autonomous Driving moving forward
The first application cases are planned in the commercial sector. Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles as the leading brand for Autonomous Driving, MaaS, and TaaS within VW will develop and build special purpose vehicles (SPV) such as robo taxis and robo vans. In a co-creation approach together with VWCV as a customer VW Autonomy will develop the respective systems. This will make the brand for light commercial vehicles the first user of the SDS from Volkswagen Autonomy.
By the end of the year resources from Volkswagen research allocated to autonomous driving will be transferred to VW Autonomy. Munich was chosen as a further site in Germany as VW Autonomous Intelligent Driving is already headquartered there. At the same time the site will become the European headquarters of ARGO AI. Silicon Valley was selected as a further site due to its proximity to ARGO AI and to the world’s leading talent pool for autonomous driving. Furthermore, the legislation offers favorable conditions for the further development of the SDS. An SDS development site in China is needed to comply with local legal requirements. China has a particularly important role as the largest market of Volkswagen and on account of the high traffic complexity.
Safety continues to be top priority with Autonomous Driving
Most importantly, the subject of safety has top priority from Level 4 onwards. Driving a car today is already very safe thanks to numerous assistance and safety systems in modern vehicles: a human driver causes a fatal accident every 600 million kilometers on average, according to certain surverys. However, with self-driving systems the statistics are expected to drop in due time. In order to achieve this, the system must be extremely robust. It's a very challenging situation indeed for the developers and related parties. From here on, VW Autonomy will control and be responsible for all activities related to autonomous driving from Level 4