The Volkswagen group is launching a test phase of a fleet of ten fully autonomous Audi e-tron in the Haiheng district of the Chinese city of Hefei, which has around 80 km of roads with an infrastructure compatible with intelligent vehicles. These vehicles will be used as taxis by residents of the region using an app developed by Volkswagen.
China is positioning itself as a leading country in autonomous driving by investing heavily in new technologies. Hefei (capital of Anhui province, in eastern China), being one of the main Chinese cities engaged in new autonomous driving technologies, is the ideal place via its dedicated infrastructures to test vehicles in real conditions. autonomous in its streets.
German car manufacturer Volkswagen launched its autonomous driving pilot service in Hefei on Wednesday August 26, 2020. It was also a first for Hefei, which issued its first autonomous driving vehicle test license to the Volkswagen China Group. The license allows the German car manufacturer to carry out road tests of self-driving vehicles in September 2020.
Weiming Soh, executive vice president of Volkswagen China, said, “This is our first pilot project in China that aims to connect the automotive, electric and digital worlds for the benefit of consumers. We feel very close to the government of Hefei. He has the desire to do it and we are rushing to do it. "
The fleet used for these autonomous driving tests consists of 10 Audi e-tron models. Volkswagen is not specifying whether the technology employed by this Audi e-tron fleet will use technology from Argo AI, an autonomous driving company in which Volkswagen recently made a huge investment of $ 2.6 billion. Argo AI currently has two main investors: Volkswagen and its partner Ford, who share 80% of the company equally. Argo AI competes against Cruise (General Motors), Waymo (Google) and Tesla in the field of autonomous driving.
The Haiheng District, located in the Hefei Economic and Technological Development Zone, will be the test site with a total area of 16 square kilometers and a road network of 80 km. Comprising universities, shopping malls, parks, hospitals, residential areas and an industrial area, these roads help Volkswagen conduct autonomous driving tests aimed at optimizing the user experience, according to the automaker.
The second phase of the tests is scheduled for early 2021 with passengers aboard autonomous vehicles to play an autonomous taxi role. According to Volkswagen, the ezia mobile app (specific to this project) will allow users to book a test ride in the Haiheng district.
Going forward, the ezia application is expected to be an integrated platform covering a multitude of travel service options, to meet various personalized needs.
Weiming Soh adds: “Digitization, electrification and autonomous driving are the main development directions of the Volkswagen group. With Volkswagen's ability to integrate technology, hardware and software, we have the ability to create an integrated travel service solution for users, that is, an autonomous driving services ecosystem covering five layers.
This project could eventually be extended to other cities, although there is no specific timetable yet.
Photos: DR / Audi