VW’s first electric minibus is a self-driving taxi

Volkswagen has unveiled a prototype self-driving version of its upcoming electric microbus, the VW ID Buzz.

The vehicle was showcased during a press briefing by the German automaker’s chairman Herbert Diess and Argo AI founder Bryan Salensky in the run-up to the 2021 IAA Mobility Event in Munich, Germany.

The pair discussed the companies’ joint venture to co-develop electric and fully autonomous vehicles, starting with the VW ID Buzz AD.

The vehicle is fitted with Argo’s hardware and software, the most prominent of which is a large long-range lidar scanner on its roof that provides 360-degree visibility at up to a 400-metre range.

This is in addition to six more shorter-range lidar scanners around the car, 11 radar panels, and various cameras and microphones.

On the software side, the bus uses Argo’s Complementary Autonomous Vehicle System to steer the vehicle.

Long-range Lidar scanner on VW ID Buzz roof
Shorter range Lidar scanner on VW ID Buzz front bumper

The prototype will first be deployed for testing on a private track and public roads in Munich, while Volkswagen plans to use it in commercial ride-hailing and delivery services in Germany by 2025.

The company unveiled the first concept of an electric iteration of the iconic microbus five years ago. Still, the ID Buzz ID will likely be closer to the actual non-self-driving production vehicle for sale to general consumers.

That model is expected to enter production by 2023, although it’s not clear if it will be coming to South Africa.

Volkswagen’s first electric vehicle slated for a South African launch is the ID.4 SUV, which will be available locally from 2022.

Below are more images of the VW ID Buzz AD.

Now read: New vehicle and driver’s licence fees for South Africa

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VW’s first electric minibus is a self-driving taxi