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CES 2017: Volkswagen I.D. helps VW go autonomous

VW is getting serious about self-driving, with the aid of 2020's production I.D.

“We believe there’s a real market for automated cars,” says VW’s head of e-mobility, Christian Senger. “We don’t think it’s a risk to fun to drive cars; it still requires a decision from the driver.”

This year’s CES show at Las Vegas has been about two things in the car hall, autonomous driving and artificial intelligence. And VW’s stand is no different. The I.D. concept is there, making its North American debut, and it’s set to come with self-driving hardware as standard, though specifying the necessary software may still be up to the customer.

While the car arrives in 2020, Segler doesn’t see our roads immediately starting to fill with self-driven cars. “Between 2020 and 2025, autonomy will be hard from a cost point of view,” he says.

The ballpark figure for adding full, hands-off, eyes-off autonomy to a car as a customer option could be almost as much as an entire Golf, he suggests, at least until big sales volumes lessen the impact. Probably why the I.D. will launch with the easier to buy and understand semi-autonomous tech that eases the pain of traffic jams, then.

The I.D. is about more than that, of course; it starts VW’s big, post-Dieselgate electric car push. “Feedback to the I.D. has been more than 90 per cent positive,” Segler says. Most of the negatives are apparently from customers who worry its roomy, minimalist interior isn’t safe and cosy enough.

Segler says the shared elements of the concept car and its production iteration are around 80 per cent, while the I.D.’s killer app inside will be its human machine interface, which he hopes will be a large head-up display. “We’d like all the information to be in a head-up display, but customers still want the traditional instrument cluster for now.”

The I.D. will be the smallest car on VW’s new ‘MEB’ electric car platform, which will be used across its brands – Audi, Seat, Skoda et al – and will be able to support cars even bigger than Passats and Tiguans. He states 400km (around 250 miles) as the minimum range figure, with the I.D. unveiled last year promising 600km (373 miles).

“We have a chance if we get every fifth Golf customer into an EV instead,” says Segler. Ready to embrace a silent, self-driving Volkswagen?

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