Volkswagen and Argo AI have joined forces to unveil a prototype autonomous version of the ID Buzz electric people mover.
The partnership is aiming to create the first SAE Level 4 autonomous vehicle for the Volkswagen Group by 2025.
After receiving the base ID Buzz in early 2021, US startup Argo has spent months testing the hardware and software ahead of its announcement at the Munich motor show.
Featuring a raft of cameras, radars and a LiDar sensor, the team at Argo is able to capture a 360-degree map around the vehicle, day or night.
Argo claims its software can detect objects from more than 400 metres away, including pedestrians, cyclists, and moving animals.
It’s trying to create the “world’s best driver”, according to Argo CEO Brian Salesky.
The Argo LiDar sensor is a proprietary Geiger-mode sensor with the ability to detect a single photon, according to Argo.
Geiger-mode LiDar are different from conventional linear LiDar as they send out lower-frequency signals more often, and calculate how many flashes return rather than the photons captured in the flash.
The ID Buzz is the third car to receive this self-driving kit by Argo.
Other cars Argo has put its hardware on include a Ford Fusion and a Ford Escape Hybrid.
“One of the major differences of the ID Buzz compared to a normal car is the roof, which is huge, and provides a lot of flexibility for integrating Argo LiDar and other sensors,” said Argo senior hardware engineering manager, Arndt von Bieren.
“In close collaboration with Volkswagen we have managed to arrange the cameras and radar in a beautifully designed tiara around the lidar.”
Testing of this vehicle is being conducted at the Munich International Airport, where a dedicated track has been set up.
The test track reportedly features unique parking scenarios, European-style roundabouts, European signs, and painted road signals.
There are a variety of narrow and wide streets on the test track as well.
With the opening of the Munich test track, Argo is now creating autonomous driving technology for two different markets simultaneously.
Volkswagen and Argo are planning for a European launch by 2025 for the commercial services.
One of these commercial services will be VW’s subsidiary MOIA, an electric ride-sharing platform.
The ID Buzz was seen to be perfect for this purpose as it can provide space for multiple passengers comfortably due to its form factor, according to Adrian Boeing, Program Director at Argo.
Urban on-road testing will apparently be conducted in Munich soon.