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Interior of VW concept EV at L.A. auto show.

VW Exec: Level 4 Self-Driver May Be as Good as It Gets

“This is like we are going to Mars,” VW’s Alex Hitzinger says of reaching a Level 5 fully autonomous vehicle. “It may never happen.”

LAS VEGAS — Alex Hitzinger, CEO of Volkswagen Autonomy, says the first product to get Level-4 autonomy under the brand-new autonomous-vehicle subsidiary, maybe as a light-duty commercial vehicle, would be a Level 4 version of the I.D. Buzz, a three-row electric minivan, starting around 2025.

“The I.D. Buzz will be the first to get Level 4,” he says at a meet-the-press session across town from CES 2020 here.

Without putting numbers on it, Hitzinger says the goal is to generate enough demand for Level 4 autonomy, at least potentially to take advantage of some economies of scale, and explore “scaleability” — not just offer a token fleet of test prototypes.

Parent VW created Volkswagen Autonomy last October. The intent is to bundle all VW Group activities for developing self-driving systems from Level 4, up, the company said.

Alexander Hitzinger.jpgAt the CES briefing, Hitzinger was frank about just how hard it would be for anybody to achieve Level 5 autonomy, which is to say full autonomy everywhere, in all conditions. (Hitzinger, left)

“This is one of the hardest problems we have. This is like we are going to Mars,” he said of Level 5. “Maybe it will never happen,” he says.

Level 4 might be as good as it gets, he says. That’s full autonomy, but within a strictly defined environment, like highway cruising or parking.

While Level 5 might be approaching the impossible, Hitzinger says Level 4 abilities could potentially attract commercial-vehicle users.

 “In order to make it really viable, you have to reduce the complexity of the problem,” Hitzinger said.

 

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