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VW begins real world Level 4 autonomous vehicle testing

by Drew Johnson

A fleet of self-driving e-Golfs are now on the streets of Hamburg, Germany.


Volkswagen announced on Thursday that it has begun real world testing of its Level 4 autonomous vehicle technology. The test fleet program is taking place in Hamburg, Germany.

VW dispatched five specially outfitted e-Golf models capable of Level 4 autonomous driving onto the streets of Hamburg on Thursday morning with the goal of obtaining data on how the vehicles cope with city driving. The e-Golf test vehicles will use laser scanners, cameras, ultrasonic sensors and radars to navigate a 3 kilometer stretch of the city's roads.

In 2020, another 9 kilometers of test roads will be opened up for testing. That stretch of road is currently being updated with hardware necessary for autonomous vehicle travel, including infrastructure-to-vehicle (I2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication.

"The tests center on technical possibilities as well as urban infrastructure requirements,” said Axel Heinrich, Head of Volkswagen Group Research. "In order to make driving even safer and more comfortable in future, vehicles not only have to become autonomous and more intelligent - cities must also provide a digital ecosystem that enables vehicles to communicate with traffic lights and traffic management systems as well as with one another.”

Despite having just 3 kilometers of road to operate on, VW expects to collect a heap of data through the trial. Each vehicle generates up to 5 gigabytes of data every minute, with each test loop running for several hours. In order to deal with all of that data, each e-Golf has the computing power equal to that of 15 laptops.

While the e-Golfs will be operating in autonomous drive mode for their test cycles, it should be noted that every vehicle will have a human behind the wheel in case of an emergency. There's also the little fact that current law requires a human drive be present in any motor vehicle, although VW is hopeful that will change in the coming years.

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