VW steps up development of automated driving technology

The Volkswagen Group’s ambitions in highly automated and autonomous vehicles have been cooled by setbacks.

These included premium subsidiary Audi, which abandoned plans to activate level 3 conditional autonomy in the A8 flagship sedan, and the group’s inability to work with partners to create a standard for the technology.

In addition, competitors like Tesla, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and BMW are advancing much faster than Europe’s largest automaker.

Honda announced in March that it will sell a limited amount of its flagship Legend sedan in Japan, equipped with Sensing Elite Level 3 autonomous driving technology that allows vehicles to drive on congested highways.

With traffic jam pilot enabled in the system, a driver can watch movies or use on-screen navigation to reduce fatigue and stress in heavy traffic, Honda said in a statement.

Mercedes hopes to follow Honda with a Level 3 system in the S-Class flagship sedan sometime in the second half of 2021. Additionally, sources say Mercedes will likely include the solution in the all-electric EQS at some point.

In the meantime, BMW is expected to offer a similar system for its iX crossover, although it does backed away from recording when the vehicle starts in November.

In order not to be left behind, the VW Group invested in the self-driving startup Argo AI together with Ford Motor Co. last year.

Today, the group is taking a two-pronged approach to technology: Audi will focus on solutions for private vehicles with the VW Group’s Cariad vehicle software unit, and the VW-branded light commercial vehicle business will develop a derivative of the ID Buzz electric vehicle for Robotaxi fleets. The self-driving buzz will use technology developed by Argo AI.

Here is a breakdown of how the group’s brands have positioned themselves in their automated driving endeavors.