Volkswagen, Argo AI Ready Electric Robotaxi Vans For German Test Fleet

Argo AI, the autonomous driving startup backed by Ford and Volkswagen, is readying modified electric VW vans that will eventually be used for a commercial robotaxi service in Germany operated with European ride service MOIA by 2025. 

Argo and Volkswagen’s commercial vehicle arm showed off what they said is the first of five ID. BUZZ vans that will be part of a test fleet ahead of the start of this week’s IAA auto and mobility show in Munich. Tests of the battery-powered vehicles outfitted with Argo’s laser lidar sensors, radar, cameras and AI-enabled software will be done with Volkswagen at Argo’s R&D facility and test track near Munich. Within four years the companies intend to start picking up passengers using MOIA’s ride-hailing platform in Hamburg. 

“Building on our five years of development and learnings from our operations in large, complex U.S. cities, we are excited to soon begin testing on the streets of Munich in preparation for the launch of the self-driving commercial ride-pooling service with MOIA,” Bryan Salesky, Argo’s founder and CEO, said in a statement.

Argo’s German plans come as the tech startup, which is competing with Alphabet’s Waymo, GM-backed Cruise and other self-driving developers to commercialize autonomous driving, ramps up road tests in the U.S. in partnership with Ford and Lyft. The company is preparing to begin picking up paying passengers this year in autonomous Ford vehicles in Miami and Austin using Lyft’s ride-hail network, albeit with backup human safety drivers initially.

Already among the best-funded autonomous driving companies, having raised at least $2.6 billion from Ford and Volkswagen, Salesky has said Argo plans to further boost its funding with a public stock listing

MOIA operates Europe’s largest, electric ride-hailing service and “Hamburg will be the first city to offer an autonomous ride-pooling service with an ID. BUZZ,” Robert Henrich, the company’s managing director, said in a statement.

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