Volkswagen: Who is going to make the first autonomous car?

Forbes Global 2000 Ranking: 28

Autonomy: Level 5

“That would be no surprise, if VW executives shake hands and take a selfie with their first AV customers in Ingolstadt.”

In 2007, Stanford Racing won the 2nd prize in DARPA Urban Challenge with an autonomous Volkswagen Passat Wagon, called RoadRunner. Average speed they achieved during the race was 22 km/h and it took 4.5 hour to finish the whole race. Volkswagen, as expected, was one of the sponsors of the team and since then it kept investing money in driving assistance and autonomous driving.

In 2014, Audi (which is a VW brand) claimed the self-driving car speed record in Hockenheim with a solid 240 km/h! (Cool note: That is the same as my personal record on a speed track.)

In 2015, VW showed its muscles on a 550 miles-long autonomous ride from Silicon Valley to California and in the very same year, it was shaken by a shocking scandal, so called Dieselgate. Possibly none of you remember this alone but happy Audi A7, that drove itself for 550 miles but some high-level executives walked the 100 yards of shame.

Now, you are wondering, why I mentioned Dieselgate in this article, which looked a bit irrelevant. Let me explain: VW still has to spend money to handle penalties and buy-backs and to polish its public image. It confirmed -a record high- $4.3 billion settlement in US and another $232 million in Canada and VW is expected to spend $19.2 billion at total to handle the whole scandal. That figure does not even include PR and advertisement campaigns. Hence, VW desperately needs to make it to the front page of newspapers in a good way. The most beneficial and cheapest way of doing this should be releasing a breakthrough technology before anyone releases in this case.

VW’s plan is to ship AVs in 2020 in a collaboration with GPU manufacturer NVidia.

Verdict

Pressure is on. All cards are on the table. VW has put a laudable effort since the early days of its autonomous driving research and managed to do good in show business in last 12 years. Now we are just 2 years away from the announced due date. That would be no surprise, if VW executives shake hands and take a selfie with their first AV customers in Ingolstadt on the planned date and at the exact time, but rivals can make an ambush before that date and steal the 1st Prize from them. My conclusion is: Likely
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Forbes Global 2000: Who is going to make first autonomous car?

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