Volkswagen’s autonomous driving effort is kicking into high gear as the company has announced plans to team up with Mobileye and Champion Motors to launch an autonomous ride-hailing service in Israel.
Set to use Volkswagen-made electric vehicles, the joint venture will be called “New Mobility in Israel.” While Volkswagen will be providing the vehicles, the autonomous driving technology will come from Mobileye which was purchased by Intel last year. The companies didn’t go into too many specifics, but Volkswagen confirmed Mobileye will be providing a Level 4 autonomous vehicle kit which is described as a “turn-key, driverless solution comprised of hardware, driving policy, safety software and map data.”
Champion Motors, on the other hand, will be responsible for running fleet operations and ensuring the vehicles are properly prepared for transporting passengers.
While Israel sounds like an unusual test location, the country’s government has promised to provide legal and regulatory support, infrastructure and traffic data as well as access to infrastructure when needed. That obviously makes Israel an appealing choice as countries such as the United States have a patchwork of laws regarding autonomous vehicles.
The project is slated to begin early next year and it could have wider implications as all three companies use the joint venture as a “global beta site for testing and introducing the Mobility-as-a-Service model using autonomous electric vehicles.”
In Israel, the ride-hailing service will roll out in phases and Volkswagen promised it will quickly grow from several dozen vehicles to hundreds of autonomous electric vehicles. Full scale commercialization won’t happen overnight, but the companies expect this occur by 2022.
In a statement, Volkswagen CEO Dr. Herbert Diess said “We firmly believe that self-driving electric vehicles will offer Israel and cities around the world safe, clean and emission-free mobility, which is accessible and convenient.”