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VW unveils fully autonomous, electric Microbus I.D. Buzz concept at Detroit; all-wheel drive, 270-mile range

Volkswagen is presenting a fully autonomous, electric Microbus concept at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Like the compact I.D. presented at the Paris Motor Show last year (earlier post), the I.D. Buzz is built off the Modular Electric Drive kit (MEB). With two-motor, all-wheel drive, a fully autonomous driving mode (“I.D. Pilot”) and a new generation of display elements and controls, the concept conceptually follows the new Volkswagen brand strategy.

The all-wheel drive system has a total output of 369 hp (275 kW) and an NEDC electric driving range of 600 kilometers (270 miles on a predicted US. driving cycle). One electric motor at the front axle and one at the rear each deliver a power output of 201 hp (150 kW), distributed between the two axles by an electric propshaft. The I.D. BUZZ shown in Detroit can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 5 seconds, with a governed top speed of 99 mph.

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The vehicle’s 111 kWh battery can be charged to 80% of its capacity within 30 minutes using the Combined Charging System (CCS) or an inductive charging interface, with a charging rate of 150 kW. As an alternative, the battery can be charged from any conventional household outlet and at charging stations. The all-wheel drive configuration is just one of several that are conceivable. Thanks to the MEB, it would be just as easy to equip the I.D. BUZZ with a rear-wheel drive setup producing up to 268 hp (200 kW) and a smaller 83 kWh battery, depending on the region and purpose of use.

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Volkswagen says that due to the MEB underpinnings, space utilization is better in the I.D. BUZZ than in any other electric vehicle. Using an extended MEB-XL platform, this concept vehicle—which is 194.6 inches long, 77.8 inches wide and 77.3 inches tall, with a wheelbase of 129.9 inches—offers an very spacious interior for its class.

The floor-mounted battery lowers the vehicle’s center of gravity and delivers ideal weight distribution. The suspension layout—including multi-link rear suspension with integrated drive units and decoupled subframes at front and rear, as well as air suspension at the rear axle using electronically controlled dampers—delivers premium class comfort, high cornering power, and ideal acoustics.

The I.D. BUZZ is a next-generation vehicle based on the new Modular Electric Drive Kit (MEB), offering comfort and plenty of space. The overall concept of the I.D. BUZZ points the way to the future. This concept vehicle is the world’s first electric multi-purpose vehicle to be equipped with a fully autonomous driving mode. It carries the feeling of freedom of the Microbus over to a completely new era of mobility.

—Dr. Frank Welsch, Volkswagen Member of the Board of Management responsible for Development

Automated Driving. The I.D. BUZZ is the first fully autonomous multi-purpose vehicle. A slight push on the steering wheel makes it retract and merge into the instrument panel, switching the I.D. BUZZ from manual control to the fully autonomous “I.D. Pilot” mode that could make it into production by 2025.

In this mode, the wheel is decoupled from the steering gear via a newly developed steering column system. The ambient lighting then switches from white light (“Drive”) to mood lighting that is warm and relaxed. At the same time, the distribution of ambient lighting is extended to the rear seating area. Simultaneously, the status of the I.D. BUZZ can be seen at all times on the tablet and the augmented reality head-up display.

Now driving on its own, the zero-emissions concept has already activated its onboard laser scanners. Four of them extend from the roof in “I.D. Pilot” mode. The cleanly styled roof sensors call attention to the fully autonomous mode by indirect lighting.

The I.D. BUZZ is not only able to detect other road users with its laser sensors, but also with the assistance of ultrasonic sensors, radar sensors, side area view cameras and a front camera. Traffic data is also continually acquired and compared with the vehicle data via the cloud. Fully autonomous mode is deactivated by touching the steering wheel or by pressing the brake or accelerator pedal.

Volkswagen User-ID. I.D. knows who will be at the wheel, thanks to the Volkswagen User-ID. (Also presented in Paris with the I.D., earlier post.) This is an individual profile that stores the personal seat and air conditioning settings, favorite radio stations and songs, sound system settings, exterior sound, configuration of the navigation system, type of ambient lighting and contact information for the driver’s friends and business associates. This profile can be retrieved securely via the cloud.

Consequently, the I.D. BUZZ also recognizes which person is entering the car or wants to take the steering wheel at any given time via the authorized user’s smartphone—the Digital Key. As soon as a person approaches the vehicle, the sensor surfaces for opening the door light up. If the person’s hand is very close to the surface, that individual door is opened. Using the Volkswagen User-ID and a relevant smartphone app, passengers in the vehicle can also control infotainment functions and input intermediate destinations into the navigation system. The route is shown on a tablet.

Communicating with LEDs. The I.D. BUZZ communicates with its surroundings via the LED lighting at the front end. The LED headlights interactively mimic the gestures of the human eye and thus interact with other traffic. The concept vehicle masters these light scenarios:

  • Parking. When all systems of the I.D. BUZZ are shut down it looks from the front as if its “eyes” are closed. When the I.D. BUZZ is parked, just a narrow, small LED strip is visible in the headlights.

  • Opening. When the I.D. is “awakened”, it greets its driver and passengers with a 360-degree light show. First, the Volkswagen logos light up. This is followed by the wrap-around ambient lighting. In the final phase of this light show, the I.D. BUZZ opens its “eyes.” small LED strip is visible in the headlights.

  • Driving. The Volkswagen logos, wrap-round ambient lighting, Daytime Running Lights and the LED headlights are always active while driving. As the car accelerates, the “eyes” adjust to the higher speed by adopting a more dynamic light signature.

  • Automated. A distinctive feature of the fully autonomous driving mode is that the laser scanners in the roof are extended and illuminated. As the car speeds up, the LED “eyes” look ahead, giving the car a sportier appearance. In addition, the “eyes” are interactive in the fully autonomous driving mode. If the I.D. BUZZ wants to turn, for instance, the LED headlights look in the direction the car is going to turn. To top it off, if the vehicle detects people at the side of the road, it looks at them. Through this interaction, the Volkswagen alerts pedestrians and cyclists to its presence.

Interior. The classic cockpit no longer exists in the I.D. BUZZ. In place of traditional instruments or controls is an intuitively operated cockpit consisting of:

  • Touch-sensitive steering wheel (multifunction steering wheel with capacitive surfaces).

  • Augmented reality head-up display.

  • “I.D. Box” center console (including a tablet usable outside the vehicle).

In the “I.D. Pilot” mode, the front seats can be electrically unlatched and rotated so they face the rear, after the “I.D. Box” multifunctional center console is moved rearward. The seating system is flexibly designed to be like the living space at home or a lounge area. This versatility is based on a seat rail system that is integrated in the flat floor and on adjustable and folding seats.

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The seatbacks of the individual second row seats can be folded to form tables. At stops, the third row can be made into a bed, enabling the I.D. BUZZ to be used for overnight voyages. When the trip is resumed, clever detail solutions make travel more pleasant, such as softly padded rear side sun visors that can be moved and are designed so that a passenger can lean on them. Individually placeable cushions also underscore the cozy atmosphere of the interior, which is flooded with light thanks to its large windows and two-part panoramic roof.

As soon as the driver’s seat is occupied, the steering wheel, which is retracted into the dashpad in parking mode, extends out, and the indicators and buttons on the steering wheel light up simultaneously. In parallel, the I.D. BUZZ activates the augmented reality head-up display and the tablet in the “I.D. Box.” The ambient lighting also greets the driver. Close the doors, buckle up, press the brake pedal and select a gear and the I.D. BUZZ is immediately ready to start. The concept car is shut off by the “P” button on the steering wheel. When finished, the steering wheel retracts flush into the cockpit panel.

Why I.D. Buzz?
According to Volkswagen, “I.D. BUZZ” name was hardly an arbitrary choice. I.D. stands for “Identity,” “Idea,” “Individual,” “Intelligent” and “Iconic Design”. BUZZ, on the other hand, is a phonetic word play on “bus” and refers to the silent “buzzing” of the drive system.

The steering wheel of the I.D. BUZZ does not have any spokes. The wheel, trimmed with Nappa leather, is more of an interactive touchpad. This touch-sensitive steering wheel is a new concept, which allows the driver to operate the drive modes (P, R, N and D), turn signals and various menu functions as well as settings for the head-up display via touch-sensitive areas on its surface.

The outer region of the touchpad has a honeycomb-like light signature, as does the dashpad ahead of the driver and front passenger. Pressing on the illuminated VW logo in the middle of the touch-sensitive steering wheel initiates a switch between the “Drive” mode and “I.D. Pilot” mode; the steering wheel then retracts or extends accordingly.

When the vehicle is being driven by someone, the I.D. Box is positioned between the front seats. In this case, the integrated tablet in the console is positioned to serve as a display and control surface for the driver and front passenger. When the driver switches to the “I.D. Pilot” mode, the entire “I.D. Box” moves towards the rear. Other console features include cupholders and a folding table. The console tablet (like the Beats speakers) is easy to unsnap and remove from the vehicle.

The Volkswagen I.D. lets the I.D. BUZZ know who the driver is. The individual vehicle settings are configured accordingly, and features such as the person’s calendar are shown on the tablet. The I.D. BUZZ also knows the driver’s friends via the Volkswagen I.D. Based on this information, the car might recommend meeting with friends or suggest activities that would fit into the day’s schedule.

In “I.D. Pilot” autonomous mode, the system informs the driver on the tablet about changes to the calendar, for instance. If the I.D. BUZZ passes one of the driver’s favorite shops or a favorite restaurant, the car informs the driver via the tablet about the current offerings at these personal points of interest. A new era of interactive and personalized online services is beginning with the I.D. BUZZ.

Like the compact I.D. shown in Paris, the I.D. BUZZ is equipped with an augmented reality head-up display. Information such as navigation directions are projected as virtual images from 23 to 49 feet ahead of the car. The effect is astonishingly realistic. Directions are projected via augmented reality to show exactly where the driver is heading. Thanks to the head-up display, the navigation instructions are now part of three-dimensional surroundings that the driver can experience. Drivers can use the touch-sensitive steering wheel to modify the type and amount of information shown, adapting the system to their individual needs.

Three levels of information density are available here:

  • Level 1: “Navigation,” “Speed” and “Battery indicator”

  • Level 2: Level 1 plus “Phone” (in “Drive” mode) and “Local offerings” (in “I.D. Pilot” mode)

  • Level 3: Levels 1 and 2 plus “Friends” along the route (in “Drive” mode) and “Messages” (in “I.D. Pilot” mode)

There are no rearview mirrors in the I.D. BUZZ. Cameras and a display have taken over that function. Where there would normally be a rearview mirror, there is a screen called the e-Mirror. Here, a monitor combines data from the exterior mirror cameras on the left and right of the vehicle and from a camera that faces directly rearward. Doing away with the side mirrors improves the aerodynamics of the vehicle.

Comments

Account Deleted

I like it. It is sustainable and it can transport people at low cost per mile as a replacement for polluting city buses. However, it is not scheduled to arrive until at least 2020. That is the bad thing.

Luckily Tesla is working on a similar minibus possibly seating up to 9 without human controls that will be controlled by the Tesla Network. It is based on the Model X chassis, drive train and autopilot so it will be here much sooner. Maybe it will go on sale to city municipalities by H2, 2018. They could operate along mayor transits with driverless model 3’s doing the last mile door to door.
Tesla is also going to make a business that drill tunnels underground for extra roads for BEVs. They will not cost much to make because you do not need a lot of ventilation as the BEVs do not pollute. Musk has said he plans to name it The Boring Company” no kidding. We can get rid of congestion by drilling tunnels for BEVs only. This is a brilliant idea also because tunnels are protected from bad weather and you can drill in several layers so there is no place on earth where you can’t eliminate all traffic congestion.

For fast supersonic travel we use hyper loops also drilled underground to minimize the risk of sabotage. That can do away with most airplane traffic. Airplanes is really only good for military applications because of their needed flexibility. For civilian purposes we should just use hyperloops.

Dr. Strange Love

How is it sustainable? Does it produce charge?

Account Deleted

Electrek also covered this story and they have an interesting quote from VW “The Volkswagen brand’s big electric offensive begins in the year 2020 with a completely new vehicle architecture. That is when we will be launching an entirely new generation of fully connected, all-electric vehicles to the market. By 2025 we want to be selling one million of these vehicles annually. We are making electric mobility the new trademark of Volkswagen”

See https://electrek.co/2017/01/09/vw-all-electric-autonomous-retro-microbus/

This is very disappointing. VW has little ambition with BEVs. Tesla a much smaller company is planning for an annual production of 1 million BEVs in 2020. Musk has not said how many BEVs Tesla will make in 2025 but with a Tesla Network up and running in 2018 and that can make each Tesla car earn over 100,000 USD per year in taxi fees Tesla will have the money to expand as fast as it is possible to hire new people and build new giga factories. Money and demand will not be a limiting factor for Tesla.

Dr. Strange Love

If it is disappointing, make and sell the vehicles yourself. You can give them away if you want to.

HarveyD

Tesla may promise but will NOT have a multipurpose 9+ passenger AWD ADV e-vehicle in operation in 2018.

If it comes, it will be for 2020/2022 and even latter.

OTOH, such vehicles (if properly shared) would be and ideal solution to reduce traffic density and pollution in major city cores.

sd

This is a concept vehicle and is not even a physical concept vehicle. It is just computer renderings thrown out to see if it stirs any interest in the automotive world.

SJC

They could rekindle the VW bus interest if done correctly and promptly. Concept with no steering wheel just says this will not be built.

Arnold

You mean like Herbie?

Communicating with LEDs. The I.D. BUZZ communicates with its surroundings via the LED lighting at the front end. The LED headlights interactively mimic the gestures of the human eye and thus interact with other traffic.

The "Boring Business" and "hyper loop" are only intended for deployment on the Future Mars Development Project where it will come into it's own sometime around October 3025.

Tesla are a separate Co.

Direct charging from even off grid is very affordable and desirable as a means high utilisation of asset esp batteries generically = more sustainable.
Battery replaces much of the off grid storage and occasional system peak loads when not in use so has value there.
Can supply grid storage or regulation services.

Concept vehicles are a great way to refine ideas at minimal cost.
Allows comment and input from diverse view points.

"A slight push on the steering wheel makes it retract and merge into the instrument panel."

So maybe we'll see something like this on the road soon and won't even blink.

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