Volkswagen cleans up its act
VOLKSWAGEN has committed to spend $54 billion over the next four years developing technology that will reduce traffic congestion and pollution.
The car maker, stung by ongoing issues with its diesel emissions, made the commitment on the eve of the Geneva motor show.
At the unveiling of its fourth electric concept car, the I.D Vizzion, the maker said air quality and congestion had to be urgently addressed as the world's population swarmed around big cities.
Almost 70 per cent of the global population is expected to be living in urban areas by the year 2050, placing enormous strain on outdated infrastructure, the group's chief executive, Matthias Muller told media at the launch of the I.D Vizzion.
Muller said the industry had to redefine the role of the car if it were to combat pollution and congestion.
"If we want to preserve the freedom of individual mobility, then we have to say goodbye to many things we associate with driving today. We must rethink and redefine mobility," he said.
The I.D. Vizzion is a full-size prestige sedan that will drive itself and respond to voice and gesture controls. The maker says the car will have artificial intelligence, making it capable of learning from its environment.
Initially that will mean being able to distinguish between a cyclist and a car, but later it will mean being able to learn its driver's preferred seat set-up and airconditioning settings as well as their favourite playlists. Owners will be identified by facial recognition software.
It will also use swarm intelligence to read road conditions by communicating with traffic signals and other vehicles.
VW says the car will definitely go into production by 2022 and should have the capability to drive itself by 2025.
The concept car has no steering wheel, brake pedal, accelerator or conventional dashboard - the only nod to the past is shag pile carpet on the floor.
Volkswagen says it will be a mobile living space that can be used for relaxing or working.
The Vizzion is the fourth of Volkswagen's electric ID range, joining a small hatch, a small SUV and van. The company says the first of the EVs will launch by 2020.
Volkswagen says the all-wheel-drive Vizzion will be driven by two electric motors making a combined 225kW of power and capable of travelling 665 kilometres on a single charge.
At more than five metres long, the Vizzion is limousine-sized, with cabin space freed up by the lack of conventional controls while clamshell doors provide a wide opening for passengers.
In a nod to the past, the car will be "filled up" by a robot version of the garage attendant. Owners will simply find a parking spot and the robot will identify their car and automatically dock with it for recharging.
Muller said the vehicle was only one part of the solution to overcrowded cities. It is developing car sharing programs and forming partnerships with major cities to reduce congestion.
"Despite all the challenges, particularly those we are facing in cities, we want to be part of the solution," he said.
He said the sheer size of the Volkswagen group - which has 12 brands under its umbrella - made it well placed to lead the charge to better mobility solutions.
The group plans to build one million EVs by 2025.
But he admitted that "no company can go it alone" and it would continue to look for partnerships in developing new technology.