The company is testing a level 4 system, but human drivers will supervise each vehicle during the first stages of the program.
For now, the company is using 10 specially equipped ID.Buzz electric minivans.
Volkswagen wants its autonomous vehicles to enter commercial service in 2026.
Volkswagen has now begun testing autonomous vehicles in Austin, Texas as part of a program that will help it develop a level 4 system.
At the moment, all driver assistance systems offered in North America are classed as level 1 or 2, with the exception of some German automakers’ latest systems that can be considered level 3.
The distinction between levels 2 and 3 is that with the former, drivers have to constantly supervise the vehicle by keeping their attention on the road while the latter allows the person behind the wheel to do something else, at least in some circumstances.
With level 4 systems, there doesn’t even need to be someone seated at the controls. Indeed, these vehicles are able to operate all on their own in every “normal” driving circumstance and will not require a driver to take back control in an emergency.
That being said, Volkswagen will employ supervisors to sit in its fleet of 10 modified ID. Buzz electric minivans, at least during the first stages of the program.
Each of the vehicles is fitted with cameras, radars, and a lidar that have been engineered in collaboration with Mobileye.
While Austin was chosen for its fair weather, the company wants to expand the program to other U.S. cities over the next three years in order to gain more experience and prepare its autonomous technology for a commercial launch, again in Austin, as soon as 2026.
While Volkswagen says it wants its level 4 system to be used commercially, it is reportedly not developing its own ride-hailing service at the moment, which means it might provide another company with vehicles instead.