VW accelerates its driverless car push

Volkswagen's Dr. Diess: We have to keep our customers happy
Volkswagen's Dr. Diess: We have to keep our customers happy   

Embattled German automaker Volkswagen has stepped up its pursuit of driverless car technology and released a new electric van prototype in a bid to put the diesel emissions scandal behind it.

Volkswagen announced Wednesday said it had formed a strategic partnership with Mobileye, which creates a real-time image processing cameras. The aim is to put these cameras on future Volkswagen cars so that they can build a picture up of roads and environments to create high definition maps that will form the basis of driverless cars.

"The new world will be defined by automated driving, in the future it will be an everyday feature of our life and it will completely change mobility," Herbert Diess, chairman of the board of management, said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Wednesday.

Volkswagen Passenger Cars CEO Dr. Herbert Diess speaks at CES 2016 next to the Budd-e electric van.
David Becker | Getty Images
Volkswagen Passenger Cars CEO Dr. Herbert Diess speaks at CES 2016 next to the Budd-e electric van.

Volkswagen's move follows on from its purchase, along with BMW and Daimler, of Nokia's HERE mapping business in August. Detailed mapping is seen as the basis for driverless cars.

Very few details about the partnership were given, but it highlights the growing trend of automakers to partner with technology firms as well as using their own research teams. Last year, South Korea's LG announced it would be providing the key components for General Motors' upcoming Chevrolet Bolt EV. And Ford this week said it would allow its vehicles to be compatible with Apple's CarPlay and Google's Android Auto – the technology giants' own in-car operating systems. A number of other carmakers have said they are working on electric cars and technology companies are keen to get in on the act.

But at the same time, Volkswagen is keen to keep control of a lot of the development of autonomous driving, which was a big motivation behind the purchase of HERE.


'Comprehensive' emissions plan

On top of the Mobileye partnership, Volkswagen also unveiled a concept electric van called Budd-e which it claims can do 233 miles on one full charge and be charged up to 80 percent in just 30 minutes. Diess showed off some of the cars features including the ability to open the door just by moving your hand in front of it.

The focus on electric vehicles and future technology in the Volkswagen CES presentation was a bid to move past the diesel emissions scandal that has plagued the company. Diess said at the beginning of his keynote that the company was working on a "comprehensive plan" to bring 500,000 vehicles into compliance with U.S. regulations on emissions.

"We are confident that we will find good solutions for the affected U.S. vehicles," he added.