It looks like Volkswagen is serious about all the stuff they’ve been saying. Yes, there will be a new minibus. Yes, they are going EV in a big way. Yes, they are very serious about technology integration. After the disaster – financial, reputation-wise and such – that was dieselgate, VW knows they have to turn things around, and from this year’s CES show in Las Vegas, they fired the first shot.
The brief sketch here is that Volkswagen and NVIDIA (the company that makes really hot graphics cards for your gaming rig) have teamed up to work lots of AI into VW’s future vehicle lineup. Specifically, VW and NVIDIA are using AI tech for “co-pilot capabilities.”
The companies shared their vision for how AI will form a new generation of “intelligent” Volkswagen vehicles at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Further, for those diehard gearheads that don’t really care about hgh-tech stuff (you know who you are, the ones with grease permanently under your fingernails), VW decided to push this future vision by showing how it will integrate into the new I.D. BUZZ, the re-do of the iconic MicroBus. The I.D. BUZZ, which is aimed straight at hipsters, eco-focused moms, Trustafarians and the like, will be a full-on electric vehicle, permeated with AI technology. It will also be self-driving.
VW calls their AI system for the I.D. BUZZ (I so hope they lose that name before it rolls out) the Intelligent Co-Pilot. The Intelligent Co-Pilot will include convenience and driver assistance systems, and process sensor data from both inside and outside the vehicle. Intelligent Co-Pilot can also be enhanced throughout the life of the vehicle via software updates, just like your smartphone. VW and NVIDIA say deep learning will enable the I.D. BUZZ to accurately assess situations and analyze the behavior of others on the road, so it can “make the right decisions.” This sounds like a nice, preemptive way of saying “it won’t crash all that much.”
Fully Electric, Zero Emissions
It turns out that NVIDIA has already worked on systems like this, meaning this is not just some random corporate cross-promotion or activation to ruin our lives further. NVIDIA is building on their NVIDIA DRIVE IX Intelligent Experience platform. That’s an AI-enabled system with goodies like facial recognition for unlocking the vehicle, driver alerts for bicycles, gesture recognition, natural language understanding for voice control, and “gaze tracking” for driver distraction alerts.
And of course, everybody is talking about autonomous driving and VW and NVIDIA are in on the party. Not only will the I.D. BUZZ launch VW’s electric car operations, it is also the platform they will use to gradually introduce autonomous driving, starting in 2020. VW, seeing the writing on the wall (i.e. diesel is all-but-dead, efficiency must go up, and emissions must drop to zero before 25 percent of the world drowns etc.) is planning on more than 20 fully electric vehicles by 2025.
These new VW models are based on the MEB architecture and focused on zero emissions and digital mobility. The MEB architecture will also be beneficial for packaging the different components so they don’t compromise interior room. For example, by using a battery that is integrated flat in the chassis floor, and a compact drive system, the VW vehicles are expected to offer a spacious and flexible interior.
VW is so in love with the MEB system they say it will also be used for vehicles with conventional drive layouts. All of the VWs based on the MEB architecture are expected to offer the latest driver assistance systems as a way to pave the way for autonomous driving, naturally.
“Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing the car,” said Dr. Herbert Diess, Chief Executive Officer, Volkswagen. “Autonomous driving, zero tailpipe emission mobility, and digital networking are virtually impossible without advances in AI and deep learning.”
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format.