Like most manufacturers, VW grades self-driving capabilities on a scale from one to five. Level one represents basic driver aids such as active cruise control or lane keeping assistance, while level five is “full automation” – as Volkswagen puts it, the system “takes over the complete driving task during the entire journey”, with no driver required.
Grades three and four allow drivers to hand control over to the vehicle in some circumstances. Some models, such as Audi’s A8, offer level three automation in selected markets.
Volkswagen’s reborn Kombi van is tipped to become the brand’s first level four-enabled vehicle.
The manufacturer published an article in November 2019 stating that “fully autonomous driving will even go into series production”, eventually offering “an inclusive mobility experience for everyone, at any time and any place”.
But Alex Hitzinger, chief executive of Volkswagen Autonomy, appears to have broken ranks.
The executive told American reporters at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that the top tier of autonomous driving capability is not within sight.
Hitzinger reportedly told US publication Wards Auto that full driverless capabilities are “one of the hardest problems we have”.
“This is like we are going to Mars,” he said.
“Maybe it will never happen.”
While manufacturers such as Tesla are adamant fully autonomous vehicles are around the corner, the world’s largest carmakers are less convinced.
Toyota Research Institute executive Dr James Kuffner told Australian reporters at the 2020 Tokyo Motor Show that “nobody is even close” to offering fully autonomous vehicles.