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Volkswagen and Argo AI have shared plans to test and commercially scale a fully electric, self-driving van over the next four years, according to TechCrunch. The end goal of this testing is to launch a self-driving ridepooling service.

Firstly, Argo AI is an autonomous driving technology company that is also working with Ford. Ford and Argo plan to launch over 1,000 self-driving vehicles on Lyft’s network over the next five years. The company is now working in partnership with Volkswagen Commerical Vehicles, the brand that exclusively develops and sells commercial vehicles. The pair of companies have teamed to create the ID Buzz test vehicle for autonomous driving.

ID Buzz test vehicle for autonomous driving

VW ID Buzz Commercial Vehicle for testiing drives on a road
Volkswagen ID Buzz Commercial Self-Driving Electric Vehicle | Volkswagen Group

The two companies are working together on a fully electric self-driving van. Testing of the prototype has already begun at Argo’s development center in Neufahrn. Argo’s nine-hectare closed-course near the Munich airport and Argo’s test track in the United States are also testing sites.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles demonstrated at the Munich Auto Show event how ride-pooling with self-driving vehicles can help manage traffic flows.

“An environment recognition system from six lidar, eleven radar, and fourteen cameras, distributed over the entire vehicle, can capture much more than any human driver can from his seat,” said Christian Senger, head of autonomous driving at VCV.

According to a statement from VW, Argo AI’s system features sensors and software that allow it to “predict the actions of pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles, and direct the engine, braking, and steering systems so that the vehicle moves safely and naturally, like an experienced driver.”

The first ID Buzz concept, an electric version of the iconic Volkswagen microbus design, was revealed in 2017. Argo’s Lidar sits atop the roof and can detect objects from a distance of more than 1,300 feet. This equipment is so large is almost makes the bus completely unrecognizable. However, without it, the self-driving capability would not be nearly as efficient. The entire system contains software with sensors capable of giving the computer 360-degree awareness of the environment.

MOIA, a subsidiary of VW, will launch the ID Buzz in Hamburg as part of a self-driving ride-pool system. The service will relieve inner-city congestion with autonomy.

Will the ID Buzz noncommercial version have self-driving capabilities?

A yellow Volkswagen ID.Buzz concept microbus drives down a road during the day
Volkswagen ID.Buzz Concept | Volkswagen

As for the non-commercial version of the ID Buzz, will it have full autonomous capabilities? As of now with all the information available about the ID Buzz concept, the answer is no. There has been no information to suggest the consumer version of the vehicle will feature self-driving capabilities. Some people will be disappointed to hear the noncommercial version of the ID Buzz may not feature full self-driving capability. However, would you rather have full autonomy and that giant thing on top of your car?

There is always a possibility that Volkswagen, and Argo, work on a scaled-down version of the autonomy. Like automakers with self-driving cars needing a pilot, a less hardware-heavy vehicle could perform the functions without such traffic efficiency. Needing a driver present at all times would be the result, which isn’t a deal-breaker for most. There haven’t been any announcements that suggest the noncommercial version of the ID Buzz will have autonomous driving capabilities.

Argo AI is a big name in driving automation. Outside of working with VCW and Ford, it received a Drivered AV pilot permit from the California Public Utilities Commission. This gives the company permission to expand beyond traditional testing on its autonomous vehicles. This means it can now test vehicles on California public roads.

After Volkswagen’s $2.6 billion investment in Argo AI, it received a $7.5 billion evaluation. Argo AI is a well-trusted autonomous driving technology company by automakers already. This testing is a big step in the right direction for providing automated travel to people everywhere.


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