In what is another advancement for autonomous vehicles, Volkswagen has bagged the contract to procure self-driving vans to ferry people around the streets of Doha, Qatar for the next FIFA World Cup.

A total of 45 electric vehicles including buses from VW Group-owned Scania and minivans based on the 2017 Volkswagen ID. Buzz Concept will make up the fleet, transporting people to and from various areas of Doha, between November 21 to December 18, 2022. The Microbus-inspired electric minivans will seat four people, while Scania will provide 10 high-tech electric buses to shuttle larger groups.

The Microbus-inspired Volkswagen electric minivan will debut on the streets of Doha, feeaturing Level 4 autonnomous driving capability.

“We will be experiencing real-world learnings and use the project as a stepping stone – for generations to come," says Herbert Diess, Volkswagen Group CEO.

For one of the biggest sporting events in the world, the vehicles will operate at Level 4 self-driving capability on the SAE scale. This means the electric AVs will operate on their own within set conditions within a geofenced area. Volkswagen mentioned “semi-fixed” routes in Doha’s West Bay area during its announcement of the project on Monday.

Volkswagen is taking a holistic approach in establishing the service, including the creation of an appropriate legal framework. The company is working with Qatar officials to develop the required physical and digital infrastructure to seamlessly integrate the fleet without disrupting the existing transport network in Doha. Israel is also hosting a similar project, which will be ready in 2022.

Herbert Diess, Group CEO for Volkswagen, said, “We will be experiencing real-world learnings and use the project as a stepping stone – for generations to come.” Just like Toyota secured the contract to supply autonomous electric shuttles for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Volkswagen sees the FIFA opportunity as a way to put its own autonomous driving technology to test in the real world.

VW Electric Bus

VW has made great progress in electrifying its commercial vehicles and giving them self-driving capability.

Although it is limited to last-mile or controlled-circuit transport, the contract still marks a major breakthrough for autonomous vehicles. Volkswagen has been rather slow in adopting self-driving technology, although that changed when the firm announced its own autonomous car division and initiated a collaboration with Ford to work on Argo AI.

Four subdivisions of Volkswagen Group will be working closely with the Qatar Investment Authority: Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Scania, MOIA (VW’s on-demand mobility service), and Autonomous Intelligent Driving sector. Trials of the fleet will begin by the end of 2020, with VW expecting to full operational capability by end-2021.