Volkswagen Group is setting up an autonomous driving unit led by a former Apple executive that will target bringing self-driving cargo vans and robotaxis to market.
Volkswagen Autonomy GmbH will be based in Munich and Wolfsburg, with subsidiaries in Silicon Valley in the U.S. and in China.
"Around the middle of the coming decade, we want to start commercializing autonomous driving on a large scale," Alexander Hitzinger, the unit's head, said in a news release.
VW hired Hitzinger in January from Apple to head technical development at its commercial vehicles division. Hitzinger, who was named an Automotive News Europe Rising Star in 2014, worked on Apple's Project Titan electric car project.
Volkswagen Autonomy will be a center of excellence for autonomous driving for solution from Level 4 and above, VW said. Its expertise will be available to all VW Group brands, which include Audi, Porsche and Bentley in the luxury sector and the VW, Skoda and Seat mass-market marques.
Volkswagen Autonomy and VW's light commercial vehicles unit, which is based in Hanover, Germany, will develop and build special purpose vehicles such as robotaxis and robovans. The LCV division will be the first user of Volkswagen Autonomy self-driving systems.
VW expects that autonomous vehicles will most likely be first used in logistics and shared mobility to transport people and goods in urban areas.
In July, VW announced closer cooperation with Ford Motor in autonomous driving and acquired a stake in Ford subsidiary Argo AI, which develops systems for autonomous vehicles.
More than half of the Volkswagen Autonomy employees will be based in Wolfsburg and in Munich, where the VW subsidiary AID has its headquarters and Argo AI its European base. Volkswagen Autonomy and Argo AI will work closely together, VW said.
By 2023, VW plans to invest about 30 billion euros in electromobility. About 14 billion euros will be spent on digitization, the development of new mobility services and autonomous driving.