Volkswagen and Argo AI Look To the Future at ITS World Congress With ID. Buzz
The future success of autonomous ride-hailing ventures will depend in large part on meeting the expectations the public has for a secure and comfortable inner-city ride.
Part of creating a positive first impression with the public lies with the vehicle’s exterior—but the critical element will be the successful execution of a welcoming interior environment. Such an environment was showcased at ITS World Congress 2021 in Hamburg, Germany, with the design concepts of the ID. BUZZ AD (Autonomous Driving), the flagship autonomous shuttle developed by Argo AI and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.
The ID. BUZZ AD will be deployed for the ride-pooling service that Argo, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, and MOIA are partnering to launch in Hamburg in 2025, and there are several characteristics designers are considering to delight and entice riders.
The electric vehicle components themselves allow for a more flexible interior space that offers plenty of headroom and foot space, as well as storage capabilities for luggage or other gear riders may be bringing along.
An electric drivetrain, which allows for a skateboard-esque design in which the batteries and motors are located in a mostly flat arrangement underneath the body, makes the vehicle’s interior look even roomier and offers greater passenger capacity. It also enables the customization of interior layouts with elements like removable consoles or tables and arranging the seats to face forward or backward.
In a YouTube video produced for the ITS World Congress 2021 in Hamburg, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles offered up potential conceptual designs about the inside of the ID. BUZZ, including the use of sustainable materials for every area of the interior.
For example, some of the surfaces are made of recycled materials, either from industrial waste or from used carpets or fishing nets, which then get made into yarns and fabrics for seats or floor mats.
“Especially when you’re in a self-driving vehicle, you don’t need to concentrate so much on the road, after all,” Theresa Scholl, color and trim designer for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, pointed out in the video. “As a result, you’re able to take in what’s around you in a more conscious way.”
Comfort, of course, also plays a decisive role, with Volkswagen using innovative seating design for improved rider comfort, as well as a lightweight foam for support. Animal-free seatback material with easily cleanable surfaces is another feature of the interior seats.
“It’s, of course, great if your surroundings not only look good but also feel great to the touch,” Scholl added.
In a post-pandemic world where everyone has hygiene top of mind, easily cleanable surfaces will allow MOIA to keep their ID. BUZZ vehicles in a state of cleanliness that will further encourage the public’s confidence.
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles plans a six-seater version of the ID. BUZZ to support ride-pooling for multiple customers. This configuration allows access from one side of the vehicle, and each seat will be individually accessible with a separate information screen for each passenger.
With each passenger able to access their own touchscreen, the MOIA service has the potential to offer not only personalized entertainment options but services like maps and route updates, estimated time to destination, payment information.
“We as designers are living just as much through the transformation process as all of society. As designers, we’re the people who create these new living environments,” Volkswagen Commercial Vehicle’s head of design Albert Kirzinger, explained in the video. “We really need to get inside the heads of somebody in the future and to offer them different things, to analyze their needs and different use cases, and then to define a vehicle from the basic requirements.”
There’s also the novelty element of futuristic technology that can be used to impress riders en route, including active LED accent lighting when the ID. BUZZ is underway.
One thing is for certain: with an open, spacious, minimal interior, an eye on the use of sustainable materials, not to mention good old-fashioned creature comforts like cushy captain’s chairs, the interior of the ID. BUZZ promises to offer consumers a flexible, comfortable, and stylish experience in autonomous ride-pooling.