Qatar has signed an agreement with Volkswagen to introduce a fleet of self-driving level 4 electric shuttles in the capital city of Doha in 2022. The representatives of Volkswagen and Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) signed the ‘Project Qatar Mobility’ at the Doha Forum in Qatar.
The aim of the project is to develop an autonomous transport system and transform the future of urban mobility to a sustainable and commercial deployment of autonomous driving shuttles and bus services – even beyond 2022. Fostering a cross-brand collaboration as the blueprint for future AD solutions, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Scania, MOIA and AID-Autonomous Intelligent Driving will play an important role in this project.
The agreement was signed by QIA CEO Mansoor Al-Mahmoud and Dr Herbert Diess, chairman of Volkswagen Group, at a ceremony in Doha on December 14. According to QIA, the agreement authorises both the parties to develop the required physical and digital infrastructure to seamlessly integrate a fleet of self-driving vehicles into Doha's existing public transport network. Autonomous, electric ID. BUZZ AD from Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles will shuttle up to 4 passengers in Westbay area on semi-fixed routes, while high-tech Scania buses pick up larger groups. Volkswagen Group's units AID and MOIA will provide the SDS knowledge and the app software to run the service. Volkswagen claims that for the first time four Volkswagen Group brands work together on such a project of urban mobility. The project will create a holistic ecosystem for autonomous driving, including the creation of an appropriate legal framework, smart city infrastructure and transfer of knowledge, which can be used as a blueprint to transform urban mobility, both in Qatar and beyond. Closed testing of the shuttle vehicles and buses is expected to begin in 2020 and trials will start as early as 2021. The project will go live during the Qatar FIFA World cup 2022, providing a technical showcase of future autonomous driving.
Dr Herbert Diess, chairman of Volkswagen, said: "Project Qatar Mobility will play a very important role in our ‘Strategy Together 2025+’. Addressing the economic growth, social development, and environmental management challenges identified as part of our vision, and underlines our commitment to investing in next-generation mobility. We will be experiencing real-world learnings and use the project as a stepping stone – for generations to come."
Within the Volkswagen Group, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles (VWCV) is responsible for Autonomous Driving, Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and Transport as a Service (TaaS), due to the fact that first use cases are planned in the commercial sector. In future, VWCV will therefore be developing and producing corresponding Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV), such as robo-taxis and robo-vans. Outlining the aims of the project, Dr Thomas Sedran, chairman of the Board of VWCV: "Utilising the Bulli of tomorrow with the autonomous driving system currently being developed by AID, adding the intelligent ride pooling from MOIA and enabling it to be booked via an app – thus beginning the future of urban transport: CO2 neutral mobility combined with SDS technology for maximum efficiency and safety. In this way, we are transporting an entire society, with all its requirements for clean, intelligent and sustainable mobility. VWCV is becoming an integrated mobility provider. Autonomous Driving is the key issue for the transformation of our core business."
Henrik Henriksson, President and CEO of Scania said: "At Scania, our purpose is to drive the shift to sustainable transport. In the coming years, technological and infrastructural progress in electric and autonomous vehicles will be key enablers in that shift. With regards to people transport, a higher degree of sharing is also important and through advances in autonomous transport, it will be simpler to introduce more flexibility in shared people transport. It is exciting to play a role in cutting edge projects like this one in Qatar."
Commenting on the announcement, Mansoor Al Mahmoud, CEO of QIA said: "For our cities to progress we need a new wave of innovation. AI-enabled, emission-free transportation technologies will help advance urban mobility, while diminishing congestion and improving energy efficiency."
The CEO of QIA added: "We are proud that QIA has been able to partner with Volkswagen to ensure that Qatar is at the forefront of these new technologies. The development of a smart transport solution will help transform the future of urban mobility, both at home and around the world."
QIA is a long-term investor in the Volkswagen group and has two highly-regarded representatives on its supervisory board of directors. QIA continues to support the continued growth of the VW group, including its ongoing expansion and the leadership position it has taken in mass vehicle electrification.