Volkswagen intends to launch a fully autonomous driving system by 2025, and the automaker is highlighting the technology behind this ambitious effort.
While a number of companies are working on autonomous driving technology, Volkswagen’s effort kicked into high-gear this March when they began testing a fleet of five e-Golfs in Hamburg.
The models have been equipped with an assortment of sensors including seven radars, eleven lasers, 14 cameras and 14 ultrasound sensors. These generate approximately five gigabytes of data every minute and all that information is processed by an advanced computer which has the processing power of 15 laptops.
As part of the development process, Volkswagen is testing their e-Golf prototypes in several phases. Each phase lasts approximately one week and the cars are driven on an approximately 1.9 mile (3 km) section of specially-equipped roads several times a day.
This continued testing and development is important as Volkswagen’s Helge Neuner said, “We as human beings have learned from childhood to recognize our environment. But we first have to teach technology that.”
This isn’t as easy and Volkswagen Autonomy CEO Alexander Hitzinger described it as “one of the greatest challenges of our time.” Getting vehicles to identify and recognize their surroundings is tough enough, but then comes the hard part of creating algorithms that have to deal with an “almost endless number of traffic and safety scenarios.”
In order to overcome these difficulties, Volkswagen is investing €44 ($48.5 / £37.7) billion into e-mobility, autonomous driving, new mobility services and the digitization of vehicles and plants. Volkswagen says this should eventually result in autonomous vehicles without a steering wheel or pedals.
As part of this effort, the automaker created Volkswagen Autonomy last month. The new subsidiary will focus on Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous driving systems and will compliment the company’s partnership with ARGO AI. It will also bring the Volkswagen Group’s various autonomous driving programs under one roof.
While Volkswagen is using the e-Golf as a test bed for the development of their autonomous driving system, the company noted the first applications of Level 4 and Level 5 systems are planned for the commercial sector. As a result, Volkswagen intends to develop special purpose vehicles such as robo taxis and robo vans.