Volkswagen recently announced its plans to conduct autonomous vehicle testing in the United States, starting with driverless variants of its electric microbus, the ID Buzz. The company intends to test this new fleet on public roads in Austin, Texas, beginning later this month.
This announcement follows Volkswagen’s decision, along with Ford, to withdraw funding from Argo AI, a self-driving startup that had aspirations of launching robotaxi services in the US and Europe. The funding setback led to Argo’s closure and created uncertainty in the autonomous vehicle industry, which has struggled to establish a viable business model for driverless cars over the past decade. Originally, VW had intended to utilize Argo’s technology to power a fleet of self-driving ID Buzz microbuses. However, the automaker is now developing the necessary hardware and software internally, in collaboration with its partner Mobileye. Over the next three years, Volkswagen plans to test these vehicles in Austin, along with four other US cities, with the ultimate goal of launching a robotaxi service in 2026. The three-row version of the ID Buzz specifically designed for the US market, unveiled last month, is set to be available for purchase in 2024.