Volkswagen AG and the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) have announced a public transport initiative aimed at developing a new level of sustainable self-driving vehicles.
Dubbed Project Qatar Mobility the aim is for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Scania, MOIA and AID-Autonomous Intelligent Driving is to work with the QIA to deliver a combination of 45 vehicles – four-seater ‘buses’ and larger group buses to integrate with Doha’s public transport system in time for the 2022 Fifa World Cup.
The companies are looking to make these vehicles have Level 4 self-driving capabilities. QIA and Volkswagen will work together to develop the required physical and digital infrastructure to seamlessly integrate a fleet of self-driving vehicles into Doha’s existing public transport network.
It is planned that there will be 35 autonomous, all-electric ID. Buzz AD shuttles that'll ferry up to four passengers in the Westbay area on semi-fixed routes, while ten high-tech Scania buses will pick up larger groups. Volkswagen Group’s units AID and MOIA will provide the self-driving system knowledge and app software.
“Project Qatar Mobility will play a very important role in our Strategy ‘Together 2025+’.” said Herbert Diess, Chairman of Volkswagen. “Addressing the economic growth, social development, and environmental management challenges identified as part of our vision, and underlines our commitment to investing in next generation mobility. We will be experiencing real-world learnings and use the project as a stepping stone – for generations to come.”
“For our cities to progress we need a new wave of innovation. AI-enabled, emission-free transportation technologies will help advance urban mobility, while diminishing congestion and improving energy efficiency,” said Mr Mansoor Al Mahmoud, CEO of QIA.
“We are proud that QIA has been able to partner with Volkswagen to ensure that Qatar is at the forefront of these new technologies. The development of a smart transport solution will help transform the future of urban mobility, both at home and around the world.”
What does Level 4 self-driving do?
As defined by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and adopted by others, Level 4 vehicles are able to drive themselves in geofenced metropolitan areas with HD and up-to-date maps, where off-site call centres will help the vehicle to deal with unusual hazards.
By comparison Level 2 – where many cars are at the moment – contains lane-changing modes, self-parking features and advanced cruise control.
Futuristic transportation for Doha
The announcement marks the first time four Volkswagen brands will be working together on a project like this and shows it's going from strength to strength in the areas predicated as vital to the future of the manufacturers’ survival.
The benefits of this close working relationship will be felt far beyond Doha; in the long run, it may provide more financial benefits. This venture aims to design a holistic ecosystem for autonomous driving, including the creation of an appropriate legal framework, smart city infrastructure and the transfer of knowledge, which can be used as a blueprint to transform urban mobility, both in Qatar and beyond.
Additionally, when Volkswagen wants to showcase the benefits of the project, not only will the company be able to take prospective clients to a warm climate (Doha), but will also potentially invite them to a World Cup – which, as meetings and networking events go – is far better than your average business meeting room.
On the road in 2022
Closed testing of the shuttle vehicles and buses are expected to begin in 2020 and trials will start as early as 2021. All going well, the project will then go live in 2022.