Volkswagen Group and Hyundai to take self-driving cars one step closer

Motoring giants Volkswagen Group and Hyundai have recently secured a deal with Aurora Innovations to build fully autonomous cars.

The vehicle manufacturers have both struck their own separate agreements with Aurora Innovations, who were founded by creator of the Alphabet’s (Google’s parent company) self-driving vehicle, Chris Urmson.

VW Group, which owns top vehicle brands Volkswagen and Audi amongst others, could see its models released first. The Germany-based manufacturer aims to have the self-driving cars on the market by 2021, having already spent the past year working with engineers at Aurora Innovations.

The team at Hyundai have also been busy on other projects however – for example, a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle is set to debut at the Consumer Electronics Show later this year. The vehicle comes as part of Hyundai’s mission to build 21 environmentally-friendly vehicles, including electric, hybrid and full-cell models.

VW Group’s other self-driving missions

The partnership with Aurora Innovation is not VW group’s first foray into self-driving vehicles, however. In August 2017, it was announced that the Volkswagen Microbus would be returning with an autonomous, electric model – the VW I.D. Buzz. While there was debate as to whether or not the car would actually make it into production, it was confirmed by Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess in August that the I.D. Buzz would be launching in 2022.

Far from focusing solely on the convenience of a self-driving car, it’s hoped that the I.D. Buzz will attract two target markets – baby boomers who will enjoy a throwback to the 60s, and technology-adoring millennials. Of course, by partnering with Aurora Innovations, VW Group can certainly be sure of the latter.

A glimpse of the future

While the war on diesel rages on, it seems electric and hybrid cars are bridging the gap between traditional petrol or diesel vehicles and autonomous cars. Short term car leasing experts Flexed have commented on the increase in demand for hybrid cars, from the humble Toyota Yaris right through to the BMW i8 2 Door Hybrid Supercar. A spokesperson for Flexed said: “After the announcement of the UK tax hike on new diesel cars, people are now looking for suitable alternatives. Electric vehicles have come a long way since their inception and hybrid cars offer drivers the best of both while technology continues to advance in other ways.”

How will the partnership work?

Put simply, Aurora Innovations will be providing the “central nervous system” while Volkswagen and Hyundai will be providing the physical shell for the vehicles. This means that the vehicles will still exhibit the trademark look and feel of previous Hyundai and VW models, but their on-board technology will be far more advanced.

Of course, with just three years to wait until launch, Aurora Innovations would be wise to use this time to dispel any safety concerns over autonomous cars. The odds are in their favour, however – to date, there have been a total of 13 incidents with Google’s self-driving fleet, all of which were, say Google, the fault of the other driver. With such a low incident rate in 1.8 million test miles, it’s safe to say that the Google technology – which will be brought to the Aurora table by the aforementioned Urmson – is all but flawless.

How it will integrate with the forthcoming Hyundai and Volkswagen models, however, is another story.