Volkswagen’s new ID.Buzz is slated to reach U.S. showrooms in 2023, but versions of the electric van fitted with a self-driving system developed by Argo AI will also test on the nation’s roads.
Volkswagen Group, which is a major shareholder in Argo AI together with Ford, has been testing self-driving ID.Buzz vans in Germany since mid-2021 and will soon expand the program to more countries.
Testing in the U.S. will start in 2023, the automaker said on Tuesday.
VW Group plans to launch its first commercial service using Argo AI’s self-driving system in 2025, initially in the German city of Hamburg. The service will be an automated taxi service with ridepooling.
Ford is expected to offer its first commercial service using Argo AI’s self-driving system as early as 2022.
Argo AI’s self-driving system ranks at Level 4 on the SAE scale of self-driving capability. Level 4 cars can operate fully on their own, though only in set conditions, the main one typically being a geofenced area. The highest ranking is a Level 5 car, which would be able to function on its own in all of the same conditions expected of a human.
Separately, VW Group is developing its own self-driving system via its new Cariad software business and Bosch, for privately owned cars. It will be available to all VW Group brands but timing is uncertain.
Self-driving capability in private cars is just reaching Level 3, which is the first level where some unsupervised driving is possible. Honda started offering a Level 3 system for highways in Japan in 2021, though the system is extremely limited in the conditions in which it will function, particularly its speed band. Mercedes-Benz plans to launch a more capable Level 3 system in Germany this year and is in the process of seeking permission for the system in the U.S.