Skip to main content

Argo AI puts a high-tech spin on Volkswagen’s retro ID.Buzz van

Volkswagen is leveraging its partnership with Pittsburgh-based Argo AI to build an autonomous version of the ID.Buzz, an electric van with a heritage-laced design that will make its debut in the coming years. Unveiled at this week’s 2021 Munich auto show, the prototype is fitted with an armada of cameras, as well as lidar and radar sensors.

It doesn’t take a well-trained eye to tell that the ID.Buzz AD is autonomous. Its hardware suite is clearly visible: Argo AI’s proprietary lidar is notably mounted on the van’s roof, where it’s perfectly positioned to scope out the road ahead. Bryan Salesky, Argo AI’s founder and CEO, said the lidar can detect objects up to 1,300 feet away.

Building a van capable of driving itself in a controlled environment is relatively easy. Deploying it in real-life conditions, where it will encounter construction, dogs, and pedestrians, is far more difficult. Salesky warned that improvements in autonomous technology will be gradual — there’s not going to be a big boom — but he pointed out that modernizing the infrastructure will play a significant role in helping driverless cars reduce traffic in big cities.

With the right technology, autonomous cars like the ID.Buzz AD could be part of a broad network of vehicles. They’ll be able to navigate all of a given city’s streets, not just the main avenues, to spread out traffic more evenly. “It might add 30 seconds to everyone’s commute, but we’ll all get there faster,” explained Salesky. He called this concept “load balancing” and stressed it can make roads more fluid at rush hour.

Volkswagen and Argo AI aren’t the only companies developing autonomous technology; the list of rivals they need to fend off is relatively long and is growing on a regular basis. Handling and horsepower won’t matter in this new arena, and drawing an eye-catching design while integrating self-driving hardware is easier said than done, so how will Volkswagen stand out from its competitors? Digital Trends went straight to the source: Company boss Herbert Diess.

Citing the Audi GrandSphere concept as an example, he said the interior will become an extremely important criteria when autonomous vehicles start appearing in our landscape. Comfort and technology currently help define human-driven cars, and they’ll become even more crucial when commuters need to decide which brand’s car they want to be driven to work in. “Some people will spend more time in their car than in their living room; we should make it nice,” he said. Convenience (like the interface used to summon a shuttle) will also be a determining factor.

We’re not there yet; autonomous cars still have several hurdles to clear before they pick up your kids from school. Volkswagen will initially build five Argo AI-powered vans to put the technology through its paces on a newly opened test track near the Munich airport and on public roads. When the testing phase is completed, the firm will begin deploying autonomous vans in Hamburg, Germany. The program is tentatively scheduled to start in 2025.

Editors' Recommendations

Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
Tesla Model 3 vs. Hyundai Ioniq 6: Which electric sedan is best?
Front three quarter view of the 2023 Hyundai Ioniq 6.

There are finally some more electric sedan options. For years, the Tesla Model 3 was really the only good electric sedan that comes at a reasonable price -- until, Hyundai recently launched the Ioniq 6. The Ioniq 6 certainly takes some cues from the larger Ioniq 5, but is smaller and sleeker, with a design seemingly inspired by the Porsche 911.

But the Tesla Model 3 is still clearly an excellent option for those looking for an electric car, and who don't want a larger crossover. Which is better? Here's a look.
The exterior design of the Tesla Model 3 and Hyundai Ioniq 6 is quite different. If you've seen a Tesla car before, then you'll immediately recognize the Model 3 -- it looks largely like a slightly different version of every other Tesla (except the Cybertruck).

Read more
Scout Motors Electric SUV: rumored price, release date, design, and more
Scout SUV Teaser

There's another electric SUV on the way, and this one comes with a familiar name. Volkswagen is reviving the classic Scout name for a new electric SUV that's billed as being an "RUV," or a rugged utility vehicle. And, it could well prove itself as the best electric SUV in its price range, when it does finally come out.

The new EV isn't due out for quite some time, but there's already a fair bit that we know about it. Curious to learn more? Here's everything you need to know about the upcoming Scout SUV.
There's very little we actually know about the Scout SUV so far, but we do know a little about the eventual design. A few teasers for the upcoming vehicle have been released, showing sketches of both the SUV and the accompanying pickup truck, along with what's presumably the front of the SUV -- though in a dark environment, with little detail.

Read more
Volkswagen ID.GTI concept is another icon reimagined as an EV
Front three quarter view of the Volkswagen ID.GTI concept.

Volkswagen reinvented one of its most iconic models with the ID.Buzz, a modern, all-electric homage to the classic Microbus. But that's not the only fan favorite vehicle currently in the automaker's catalog.

Debuting at the 2023 Munich Auto Show, the Volkswagen ID.GTI concept aims to do for the Golf GTI hot hatchback — VW's signature performance car — what the ID.Buzz did for the Microbus. VW claims a production version has already been given the green light, although it won't say when it will appear.

Read more