VW expands plans to make autonomous driving a reality
German automotive giant Volkswagen (VW) have announced the creation of a new subsidiary that will be wholly focussed on the delivery of fully autonomous driving.
Volkswagen Autonomy (VWAT) will begin its operations out of Munich and Wolfsburg in Germany, with a new Silicon Valley facility to open in 2020 and a Chinese plant in the coming years.
Addressing the challenges of autonomy
The new business is to be led by Alexander Hitzinger, senior vice president for autonomous driving in the VW Group and member of the VW brand board of management responsible for technical development at VW Commercial Vehicles.
“Autonomous driving presents the entire industry with major challenges: high development costs, extremely high demands on sensor technology plus a lack of regulatory systems and heterogeneous regional standards,” Mr Hitzinger commented.
“Our goal is to build an agile, high-performance development team with the know-how to realise a self-driving system ready to market.”
VWAT will focus on pushing forward the design of new, autonomous vehicles with the aim of moving beyond Level 4 – high automation of systems within vehicles with some driver input – to Level 5 and full autonomy in the near future.
Synergies helping to drive success
Set to become a new centre of excellence for autonomous driving, the facilities of VWAT will be supported by the wider VW brand. It means expertise derived from years of engineering excellence will support the company’s ambitions to make full self-driving vehicles a reality.
“We will continue to use synergies across all group brands to reduce the cost of self-driving vehicles, high-performance computers and sensors,” Mr Hitzinger concluded. “We plan to start commercialising autonomous driving at a large scale around the middle of the next decade.”
He added that the aim of VW is to make the brand a leader in the self-driving category, by “combining the agility and creativity of a high-performance culture with process orientation and scalability”.
Developing the safety systems that are essential for the future of the autonomous driving sector in general will be a top priority for VWAT in the coming years. The company must ensure there is no drop-off in safety when self-driving vehicles begin entering the roads.
Indeed, today’s safety systems in modern cars are of an extremely high level, with a human driver causing a fatal accident every 600 million kilometres on average. Autonomous vehicles must be able to match this in future, before going on to better it. Safety must therefore be extremely robust.
Overall, VWAT will now take over responsibility for all autonomous vehicle testing, development and design across the VW group range. It represents a new stage in the push towards intelligent, self-driving vehicles in the future.
Jenny Smith, general manager for Tele-Gence, commented: “The launch of VWAT marks a strong commitment by VW to the development of fully autonomous vehicles in the near future. It’s an exciting time for everyone in the automotive arena.”
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