How VW Group aims to dodge automated driving setbacks

Volkswagen Group’s ambitions in the areas of highly automated and autonomous cars have been cooled by setbacks.

Those included premium subsidiary Audi abandoning plans to turn on Level 3 conditional autonomy in the A8 flagship sedan and the group’s inability to create a standard for the technology together with other partners.

In addition, rivals such as Tesla, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and BMW are pressing ahead with much greater speed than Europe’s largest automaker.

Honda said it will sell a limited batch of its flagship Legend sedan equipped with its Sensing Elite Level 3 autonomous driving technology that enables vehicles to navigate congested highways.

When the Level 3 Traffic Jam Pilot is activated in the system, a driver can watch movies or use the navigation on the screen, helping to mitigate fatigue and stress when driving in a traffic jam, Honda said in a statement.

Mercedes is hoping to follow Honda sometime in the second half with an eyes-off Level 3 system in the S-Class flagship sedan. In addition, sources say Mercedes is likely to eventually include the solution in the full-electric EQS.

Meanwhile, BMW is expected to offer a similar system in its iX electric crossover, although it has backed away from including it when the vehicle dues in November.

To avoid being left behind, VW Group invested in self-driving startup Argo AI together with Ford Motor last year.

Today, VW Group is following a two-track approach for the technology:

  1. Audi will concentrate on solutions for private vehicles together with VW Group’s vehicle software unit, CARIAD (formerly Car.Software Organization)
  2. VW brand’s light commercial vehicles business will develop a derivative of the ID Buzz electric van for robotaxi fleets. The self-driving Buzz will utilize the technology developed by Argo AI.

Below is a more detailed breakdown of where VW Group brands stand in their efforts to offer automated driving.