Plans have been presented for Europe's first autonomous ride-pooling project, set to go live in Hamburg, Germany, by 2025.
The companies behind it - Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles (VWN), VW subsidiary Moia and Argo AI - laid out their blueprint for the service and revealed the prototype of VW's autonomous ID. Buzz AD vehicle, for which Argo AI developed the self-driving system.
The service is planned to run in the Hamburg districts of Winterhude, Uhlenhorst and Hohenfelde; Argo AI will start surveying the test area towards the end of the year.
Argo test vehicles will drive through the city in manual mode and record the road infrastructure and local traffic regulations in the test area, including location and distances of traffic lights, cycle paths and signage.
Test drives with and without passengers will follow, prior to public operation.
“For Moia as a mobility service and fleet operator, autonomous driving is an important part of our business model," said CEO Robert Henrich.
"Cities all over the world want to make their traffic more efficient and more climate-friendly. Autonomous ride-pooling can improve urban mobility, increase road safety and thus make cities more livable places."
The project "underlines the strategic change from an automobile manufacturer to a world-leading, software-driven mobility provider", says Christian Senger, head of autonomous driving at VWN.
“We have extensive experience in fleet operations," says Henrich. "Now we are automating the processes in the service, such as the interaction between driver and passengers, and the fleet management."
Hamburg is the host of next month's ITS World Congress.
Dr. Anjes Tjarks, the city's senator for transport and mobility change, welcomed the pilot project and said: “We want to make Hamburg Europe's digital model city in the transport sector."
"From my point of view, autonomous driving has huge potential, especially in the areas of ride-pooling and sharing. As the city of Hamburg, it is our declared goal to bring local transport to the area. If we tackle it properly together, the self-driving Moia can become a very important piece of the puzzle."