Who can forget the classic Volkswagen bus? The original van design first debuted in 1950 and went on to survive well in to the late '60s, helping define the hippie generation.
Well today, that iconic bus is back and it's better than ever. The I.D. BUZZ is Volkswagen's new name for the snappy-looking Microbus revival that has been making the car show circuit rounds. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this past January, Volkswagen revealed that the I.D. BUZZ will be a far cry from its predecessor. That's because it will include an all-electric engine and artificial intelligence (AI) features, making this bus simultaneously retro and futuristic.
The BUZZ's AI features are engineered by NVIDIA, a software company that is one of the leaders in the field. "Combining the imagination of Volkswagen with NVIDIA, the leader in AI technology, enables us to take a big step into the future," VW CEO Herbert Diess, said in a press statement. (We reached out to VW and their spokesperson declined to further elaborate on the features NVIDIA designed.)
However, the VW spokesperson did say the I.D. BUZZ is just a concept, "developed to show the capabilities of Volkswagen's future technology. As a show car it demonstrates a lot of features that are currently under investigation for series production. The kind of features the I.D. BUZZ will have in the future will be announced closer to launch."
In other words, the I.D. BUZZ that we've already seen could be substantially different when it's actually released (right now it's scheduled for 2022), which is typical of concept cars. But if any of the current technology ends up in production, the BUZZ will be worth waiting for.
- Drive IX, which provides "Intelligent Co-Pilot" features, such as facial recognition that unlocks the car. Drive IX also remembers the language spoken by the driver and automatically adjusts the seat based on the driver's preferred settings.
- Drive AR is the augmented reality suite, which is designed to enhance car safety, provide gesture recognition and gaze tracking for safety.
- "Deep learning" means the car can evaluate driving scenarios and make decisions for the driver.
- "Surround perception" will alert the driver to hazards based on data from networked sensors — in most vehicles, these are known as advanced or active safety features.
- The systems can gain new capabilities as VW and NVIDIA identify room for growth.
- Software updates will make sure that the systems are always state-of-the-art.
- AI enables features such as autonomous driving and digital networking, and VW says it is also necessary to achieve zero tailpipe emissions.
NVIDIA suggests in a press release that these types of features will be expected on every new vehicle in just a few years. Volkswagen plans to continue looking for ways to integrate this technology, and the automakers' tech spokesperson told us that VW recently has created a new "Holistic User Experience" division to focus on user friendly interfaces of products and services to offer intuitive usability for customers.
Though the I.D. BUZZ is the most visible of VW's current plans for electric cars, the automaker has plans for more than 20 fully electric vehicles by 2025 and aspires to be the most prolific maker of EV vehicles in the world. In the meantime, we expect Volkswagen's new electronic technology will be gradually added to the brand's vehicle lineup.