Looking well beyond its past problems, Volkswagen is projecting off into the future with its self-driving concept car featuring technologies that could someday work their way into the German automaker’s brands like Audi, Bentley or Porsche.
After a cheeky video riffing off Star Trek, Harry Potter and other pop-culture icons, CEO Matthias Mueller presented VW’s first self-driving car, known as Sedric, on Monday for a Geneva Auto Show media day. Sedric is fully electric, connected and autonomous, and picks up passengers at the touch of a button. The vehicle looks like a futuristic travel pod: No steering wheel, pedals or controls. ‘Sedric’ reportedly stands fro ‘SElf DRIving Car’.
Volkswagen has a badly dented image following the revelation that nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles deliberately circumvented U.S. emissions tests, and court cases continue against it. With VW’s family set to roll out 60 new vehicles this year, Mueller said Sedric was part of a study aiming to show “how a new, integrated mobility system of the future could function.”
The Wolfsburg-based company says it plans to launch more than 30 purely battery-powered vehicles by 2025, and “battery technology, autonomous driving and artificial intelligence will become new core competences” for VW.
Europe’s biggest carmaker has said it will invest billions of euros in electric cars, ride-hailing and automated driving, and launch over 30 electric models by 2025 as it battles to recover from its emissions test cheating.
This self-driving concept car Sedric - a so-called Level 5 vehicle capable of fully automated operation - is a precursor for more such models from the Volkswagen (VW) group in years to come, Chief Executive Matthias Mueller said on Monday on the eve of car executives’ annual gathering in Geneva.
VW is hiring top specialists and plans to spend several billions of euros on automated driving alone, Mueller said, without being more specific.
Sedric can carry 4 passengers and could be used for ride-sharing fleets as well as for individual consumers, VW said.
Internet giant Google was a forerunner in self-driving technology with its 2015 prototype vehicle, but has since been challenged by companies ranging from Uber to Apple, as well as traditional carmakers.
Manufacturers and their suppliers are working on different technology suites - including cameras, radar and laser imaging technology lidar - to enable vehicles to drive themselves, but it will take years for these vehicles to come to market.
Mercedes-Benz unveiled its fully autonomous F 015 luxury concept two years ago. But Toyota has said it does not expect to see Level 5 cars in widespread use for another 10-15 years, while Ford does not plan to offer such vehicles for consumers until 2025 or later.