Argo AI and Volkswagen Begin Testing for Deployment of Autonomous Vehicles on the Streets of Hamburg
As Hamburg continues to become one of Europe’s model cities for leadership of the mobility revolution, Argo AI, Volkswagen, and MOIA are taking this further by implementing the roadmap for autonomous ride-pooling in the city. Argo and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles (VWVC) have recently started the process of safely testing autonomous vehicles on the historic city’s beautiful streets.
This major milestone is the first of many preparations to deploy the ID. BUZZ AD (Autonomous Driving) – a product of Argo’s work with VWVC to integrate our self-driving system with VW’s iconic vehicle platform – on MOIA’s ride-pooling service in Hamburg, beginning in 2025. Together with MOIA, which brings its expertise in offering mobility enhancement, one of the joint goals is to offer individual transport to the wider urban area of Hamburg, furnishing outer districts and communities with an on-demand local mobility network.
In advance of the operation of our vehicles in autonomous mode on Hamburg’s streets – the eighth city for Argo’s public road testing, joining Munich and six U.S. markets – a significant amount of work must be done to ensure that we meet our high bar of safety requirements for testing in a new city. First, we must create a high-precision 3D map of the built and natural environment within Hamburg streets. This map helps to familiarize our self-driving system with the city and gives our vehicles a degree of inherent “knowledge” similar to that of a human driver who’s been driving in the area for a long time.
This initial mapping phase is what you’ll be witnessing in areas like Winterhude, Uhlenhorst, and Hohenfelde when you first catch a glimpse of the ID. BUZZ AD. To ensure this phase is performed safely, specially-trained Argo employees manually drive the vehicles as its sensors capture measurements and visual information about the roads. These employees are our Test Specialists, and they sit in the front seats even when the vehicles first begin testing in autonomous mode.
The comprehensive 3D map, or model, we create of the environment in which we’re operating is much more advanced than a GPS map you find on a smartphone. We incorporate not only the city’s crosswalks, bike lanes, and complex intersections, but also local laws and regulations – down to precisely-located speed limits and traffic signals. This plays into the reason we chose to begin testing in Winterhude, Uhlenhorst, and Hohenfelde – along with their attractiveness as vibrant urban hubs – because the complex road and traffic conditions of those areas will help train our self-driving system under real conditions where ride-pooling can have the greatest congestion-reducing impact.
Our technology will also learn about Hamburg’s social driving norms and the nuances of its advanced mobility culture, such as pedestrian and bicyclist behaviors. This helps teach our autonomous vehicles to drive “naturalistically” and safely, smoothly coexisting with other vehicles and people that share the road. We also map other important objects that our vehicles encounter on the road, such as stationary objects like buildings and statues, and natural objects like trees and shrubs.
And before we let our vehicles operate in autonomous mode on public roads, we prepare the self-driving system through extensive testing where we create simulations of real-world road scenarios within a virtual environment. From virtual testing, we move to our test tracks in Germany and the United States where we conduct rigorous exercises to ensure the vehicles’ hardware and software operate properly on actual roads.
Ultimately, we design the vehicles to fit naturally into Hamburg’s transportation network so that when someone sees an Argo self-driving vehicle pass by, all that registers in the back of their mind is that this vehicle is trained to operate safely and is helping to bring the future of mobility to Hamburg.