Skip to main content

Volkswagen puts self-driving cars to the test on the streets of German city

Volkswagen e-Golf autonomous prototype HamburgVolkswagen is testing prototype self-driving cars in Hamburg, Germany. The automaker claims these are the first tests of autonomous cars in a major German city. The tests will help ongoing research projects into autonomous driving, a VW press release said.

The test fleet consists of five modified Volkswagen e-Golf electric cars. Similar to test vehicles operated by the likes of Waymo, the e-Golfs are festooned with sensors that allow them to navigate city streets. Each car has 14 cameras, seven radar units, and 11 laser scanners, according to VW. Those sensors generate up to 5.0 gigabytes of data per minute, which is processed by computers in the trunk. The computing power of each car is equivalent to 15 laptops, Volkswagen said.

Related Videos

A human safety driver will be on board at all times as a backup. Consequently, VW noted that its test vehicles register at Level 4 on the SAE autonomy scale. The automaker said its ultimate goal is to develop cars capable of Level 5 driving. The highest level on the scale, it signifies cars that drive themselves at all times, and don’t have steering wheels or pedals. Reaching Level 5 will require significant changes in regulations, Volkswagen said.

The self-driving car tests are part of a larger effort by VW and Hamburg’s government to demonstrate new technologies. A 9-kilometer (5.5-mile) “digital testbed for automated and connected driving” is currently under construction, Volkswagen said, with completion scheduled for 2020. This will include upgrading of traffic lights with vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication tech that allows them to “talk” to cars.

VW isn’t the only automaker that’s busy developing autonomous cars. Ford plans to put a self-driving car into production in 2021, while GM will double the size of its Cruise division as it preps to commercialize the tech. Other automakers, such as Toyota, Nissan, and Mercedes-Benz, are testing self-driving cars as well. They’re competing with a number of tech companies and startups to take autonomous driving mainstream. But, in the United States at least, the public remains skeptical of self-driving cars. Overcoming that ingrained skepticism may be as much of a challenge as getting cars to drive themselves in the first place.

Editors' Recommendations

The future of transportation: Self-driving cars? Try self-driving everything
GM electric flying taxi

Technology is reshaping every aspect of our lives. Once a week in The Future Of, we examine innovations in important fields, from farming to transportation, and what they will mean in the years and decades to come. 

Stroll around any CES (virtual or otherwise) in the last decade and it’s impossible to miss all the feels the tech industry has for transportation, self-driving cars in particular. Every major technology company has its fingers in cars, from the infotainment systems powered by Google and Apple to the operating systems driven by Blackberry and Linux to the components and circuits that make up the car itself, built by Qualcomm and Nvidia and NXP and a dozen more. (And don't get me started about this Apple Car nonsense.)

Read more
From Paris to NYC, Mobileye will bring self-driving cars to metropolises
A self-driving vehicle from Mobileye's autonomous test fleet navigates the streets of Detroit. (Credit: Mobileye, an Intel Company)

A Tesla in Autopilot mode can ply the highways of Northern California without issue, but when it comes to congested cities packed with erratic vehicle traffic, bikes, and pedestrians, cameras don’t always cut it. Or they didn’t, anyway. After years of testing, Intel-owned Mobileye intends to embrace the madness of the metropolis by rolling out self-driving cars in cities across the world.

On Monday, the first day of CES 2021, the company announced that Tokyo, Shanghai, Paris, Detroit, and New York City will all see fleets of Mobileye-powered vehicles rolled out in early 2021, if all goes well (regulatory issues are still being ironed out in NYC).

Read more
Waymo ditches the term ‘self-driving’ in apparent dig at Tesla
waymo takes its self driving cars to florida for testing in heavy rain

Autonomous car company Waymo says it will stop using the term “self-driving” in a move that many will see as a swipe at Tesla.

Alphabet-owned Waymo said that starting this year it will refer to its driving technology as “fully autonomous.”

Read more