Image: Volkswagen

Volkswagen Group is to establish a self-driving Mobility as a Service (MaaS) venture in Israel with partners Mobileye and Champion Motors. It will provide a fleet of electric vehicles for the New Mobility in Israel operation; Mobileye will provide its Level 4 AV hardware, map data, safety software and driving policy technology; and Champion Motors will run the fleet operations and control centre.

The venture’s proposal was formally accepted by the Israeli government at the Smart Mobility Summit 2018 in Tel Aviv. The government will support the programme with legal and regulatory support; sharing infrastructure and traffic data; and access to infrastructure. Beta-testing will start in early 2019 with a view to commercialisation by 2022. “We firmly believe that self-driving electric vehicles will offer Israel and cities around the world safe, clean and emission-free mobility, which is accessible and convenient,” said Dr Herbert Diess, Volkswagen Group CEO.

Stephanie Vox, head of the Volkswagen Group Campus Tel Aviv Konnect, which works with and supports Israeli start-ups, added: “Israel is a valuable source of new mobility technologies as well as cybersecurity, AI, smart data and sensors… Here, the short lifecycles of the market are matched by a creative eco system and a corresponding mindset.”

Volkswagen accompanied its news release on this announcement with images of its I.D. Crozz autonomous crossover concept [pictured], giving a clue to the cars it is planning for the fleet.

 Volkswagen and Volvo both team up with Baidu

Meanwhile, Reuters has reported today that Volkswagen is to join the Baidu Apollo autonomous vehicle consortium in China, a co-operation to accelerate the development of AVs in the region. This follows the news earlier this week that Volvo Cars is to collaborate with Baidu as well, to jointly develop and manufacture customised, purpose-designed AVs for mass production for the Chinese market.

Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive of Volvo Cars said in a statement: “With Baidu we take a big step forward in commercialising our autonomous-compatible cars, built on Volvo’s industry-leading safety technology There is a strong development in autonomous drive in China, where Baidu is a leading player, and the market there offers huge opportunities for us as the supplier of choice for autonomous fleets.”

Volkswagen and Volvo join partner firms including BMW Group, Hyundai and Ford China in working with Baidu and utilising the Apollo open platform.