Austin becomes Volkswagen’s first US location for self-driving car tests

Jul 8, 2023, 7:56 AM UTC
2 mins read
Austin becomes Volkswagen's first US location for self-driving car tests
(Image credit: Volkswagen)

Volkswagen is set to join the ranks of companies testing autonomous vehicle technology in Austin, marking the German automaker’s first autonomous driving test program in the United States. The company plans to deploy a small fleet of electric ID. Buzz vehicles equipped with self-driving technology developed by Volkswagen and autonomous driving company Mobileye.

Initially, Volkswagen will commence testing with two vehicles, aiming to expand the fleet to 10 by the end of the year. As part of its growth strategy, the company intends to extend its test fleet to at least four US cities within the next three years, while Austin serves as the initial testing ground. During the initial phase of testing, each vehicle will be supervised by a human driver, ensuring safety and oversight.

The autonomous driving tests in Austin come as Volkswagen continues to invest in the advancement of its autonomous vehicle technology, software, and related technologies on a global scale. In Europe, the company has already been utilizing the ID. Buzz, a retro-style electric van reminiscent of the iconic 1960s VW vans, for autonomous technology testing.

Volkswagen envisions offering fleets of autonomous ID. Buzz vehicles as a comprehensive service in the future. This service would include fleet management and remote guidance solutions for other mobility and transportation companies. However, the company clarifies that it currently has no plans to develop its own dedicated ride-hailing service.

The testing of Volkswagen’s self-driving vehicles in Austin will initially take place within a geofenced area encompassing East and downtown Austin. However, the company plans to expand its testing beyond these boundaries in the future.

The decision to choose Austin as the first US location for autonomous vehicle testing was based on the city’s reputation for embracing innovation and its favorable environment for autonomous vehicle trials. Katrin Lohmann, president of Volkswagen’s Autonomous Driving for Mobility and Transport as a Service group, expressed the company’s commitment to being a partner to the people of Austin and keeping them informed about its testing operations.

While autonomous vehicles will not be accessible to the general public in the initial stages, Volkswagen has outlined its comprehensive program for the next year. This program will involve testing by a “closed user group” of stakeholders in 2024, with plans to introduce commercial services in 2026. The company aims to offer ride-hailing and goods delivery services simultaneously, with the goal of making both available to customers by 2026.

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