It’s been a long time since I first cruised through Pebble Beach. Four years, in fact, since I was sitting in that bright and sunny cockpit and lying around in a concept car that made absolutely everyone smile. Now Volkswagen is giving the world its first proper look at a proper production version in a very special trim: the Autonomous.
This Volkswagen ID is Buzz Eddie, and no, the two-letter designer has nothing to do with the cycle of the calendar. It’s an indication of the autonomous nature of this bus, thanks to a heavy injection of technology from VW partner Argo AI. Argo, what we’ve seen before, has implemented its Argo SDS (Self-Driving System) here to make it a family-driver that will, eventually, fully carry itself.
The van was unveiled at Volkswagen’s group night event on Sunday ahead of this year’s Munich Auto Show. There, VW chairman of the management board Herbert Diess said, “Autonomy will transform this industry like nothing we’ve seen before,” adding that “autonomy will completely change our world,” too. But, unlike the dates of so many proclamations and those radical changes over the years, Dias chose a moderate time frame.
2030 is when Diess says autonomy will begin to have an impact on the auto industry. By then, he expects the majority of VW’s passenger vehicles to be EVs and that autonomous services will begin to impact the overall economy of his business. Love this type of vehicle a lot.
As such, ID Buzz Eddie isn’t really meant as a package for you or me to buy. It is still largely a development and testing platform that will one day evolve into a transportation service. You know, something like Uber or Lyft, minus the bus driver. While the autonomous services won’t have an impact for about another decade, they will be in testing in Germany in the coming months and have limited commercial deployment until 2025.
How does this work? Naturally it takes a lot of sensors. Most notable is the long-range lidar scanner mounted overhead on the ceiling, providing 360-degree visibility at a range of up to 400 meters. This is fueled by half a dozen small-range lidar scanners fitted throughout the car, as well as 11 radar panels, a range of cameras at different focal lengths, and even microphones. All of this paired with Argo’s complimentary autonomous vehicle system, which hovers over all that data and creates a comprehensive worldwide look.
These buses will still feature human drivers during testing, a beefy feature unlikely to disappear for many years to come. When you can get your own beefy bits in a non-autonomous ID buzz remains to be seen, but Volkswagen previously promised a production version by 2023. From what we can see under all that vinyl camouflage, it seems like the transition from concept to production is seemingly innocuous, and that’s really great news.