Volkswagen has shown its closest look yet at the ID.Buzz minivan in the form of a self-driving prototype developed in collaboration with Argo AI, TechCrunch has reported. If you disregard the mild camouflage and lidar stack on top, you can finally get a good picture of how the production ID.Buzz, due to hit the US in 2023, will look.
The electric minivan looks a bit more practical though less fun than the original concept. The rounded lines meant to evoke the classic '70s VW van have been squared off, and the bulgy fenders are considerably less so. It also appears, though it's hard to confirm with the camouflage, that VW has changed the concept's funky rear window configuration. Still, it does bear a resemblance, especially from the front-side angle where it looks the best. Seen with a driver, one also gets a sense of the ID.Buzz's relatively small size.
As far as the autonomous tech goes, VW plans to use it in cities first as autonomous shuttles or for deliveries. Argo's AI system packs cameras, lidar modules, radar and an onboard computer to let it "see" up to 400 meters ahead for obstacles.
Argo AI founder Bryan Salensky said that the system can navigate with or without GPS and can work without changes to roads and infrastructure. Its sensor array will 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," Argo said.
We have heard this tune before, though, and there are still no real self-driving cars plying city streets and highways. Volkswagen and Argo plan to test and commercially scale the fully-electric self-driving van over the next four years at Argo's development center near Munich, with plans to develop a fleet by 2025. Argo is also working with Ford and Lyft on a 1,000-vehicle self-driving network with tests planned for cities like Miami and Austin.