FRANKFURT -- Volkswagen Group will collect data from its new cars starting next year to further develop its autonomous driving technology.
The information will be harvested from cameras in new cars sold across the group's brands from Audi, Porsche and Bentley in the luxury segment to VW, Skoda and Seat in the mass-market, if owners agree.
VW believes the information from this "shadow fleet" will give the company an advantage over competitors, given the size of its sales. Through August, the group sold 6.8 million vehicles worldwide, up 2 percent.
"We could write a map of Europe every five hours if we wanted to just using just the sat nav systems in our cars," VW development chief Ulrich Eichorn said at a press event on the sidelines of the Frankfurt auto show this month.
VW's data collection plan is similar to a program used by Tesla Motors, which extracts information from cars equipped with the company's latest Autopilot technology, running in shadow mode.
VW will use the information to expand its Pegasus database, which contains details of real-world driving scenarios.
This would avoid waiting until a self-driving car has an accident to see how it behaves. "That's like doing crash testing by driving around until you have a crash. We don't do it like that." Instead, revisions to self-driving technologies are run through the database to see how it would cope, he said.