Testing in California and in Germany will begin before the end of the year.
The Volkswagen Group has teamed up with Aurora Innovations to build and test self-driving cars. The German firm is the second auto-maker to strike a deal with Aurora, after Hyundai, and the latest runner in the ever-crowded race towards full autonomy.
"Our vision is 'mobility for all, at the push of a button.' This means that we want to offer mobility for all people around the world. Mobility also for children, elderly, sick, and visually impaired people, really for all," summed up Johann Jungwirth, the Volkswagen Group's chief digital officer, in a statement.
He added the company ultimately aims to provide a shuttle service that takes users door-to-door. The vehicles will, of course, be electric. The Sedric concept (pictured) introduced last year illustrates the pod-like car Volkswagen has in mind for the program.
Jungwirth told The Verge that Volkswagen and Aurora will begin testing a fleet of less than 100 cars before the end of the year. Half of them will operate in Silicon Valley while the other half will undergo testing in Germany. The two partners aim to regularly increase the size of the fleet over the following years and expand to anywhere between two and five cities by 2021.
By that point, autonomous cars used to test self-driving technology will be a relatively common sight across the United States and Europe -- assuming everything goes according to plan, of course. Over a dozen companies (including Uber, Google, Tesla, Ford, and General Motors) are testing or will soon test prototypes.
Volkswagen will also leverage Aurora's technical know-how to autonomize future passenger cars. The company pointed out engineers from both groups have spent the past six months integrating Aurora's suite of self-driving technology (which includes sensors, hardware, and software) into Volkswagen's vehicle platforms. Which vehicle(s) will be used to test the technology hasn't been revealed yet. We know the production version of the I.D. Buzz Concept incorporate a high degree of autonomy when it makes its debut shortly after the turn of the decade.