FRANKFURT -- Volkswagen Group is open to sharing future autonomous-vehicle systems with other automakers as it races to catch up with rivals such as Waymo in cost-intensive technologies that could transform the way people and goods move, according to Alexander Hitzinger, VW's senior vice president for autonomous driving.
Joint projects beyond a deal with Ford signed in July -- that includes a $2.6 billion investment in its U.S. peer's affiliate Argo AI -- could help spread out costs more widely, Hitzinger said.
"We do have to catch up in some fields but we're not massively far behind here, and as VW Group we can really generate very large economies of scale," Hitzinger told Bloomberg on the sidelines of a press briefing in Hamburg. "And this will be a scale game," he said.
VW's efforts to develop autonomous cars date back more than a decade to tests hosted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, in the U.S. But the industrial giant's unwieldy corporate structure -- with operations scattered across 12 automotive brands and 122 factories worldwide -- led to fragmented development that allowed quicker rivals to take the lead.
Hitzinger, who rejoined VW from Apple after previously holding key engineering positions at Porsche's motorsport operations, now oversees a newly formed unit dubbed Volkswagen Autonomy that is aimed at bundling projects more efficiently.
The division will have offices in Germany, Silicon Valley and China to attract top talent and develop highly automated driving systems -- so-called Level 4 autonomy -- that can be scaled up for commercial production starting around 2025.
VW is testing self-driving versions of its Golf on the streets of Hamburg, Germany. The tests involve five electric versions of the Golf, equipped with Level 4 self-driving technology, that use lasers, radars and scanners.The cars have drivers who can intervene to take the wheel.