Volkswagen Self-Driving EV Revealed at Beijing Auto Show

VW targets selling 4 million vehicles in China by 2030 and plans to collaborate with local companies, integral to its strategy

Graham Hope

April 26, 2024

3 Min Read

German automaker Volkswagen has unveiled a stylish new electric SUV-coupe capable of autonomous driving at the Beijing Auto Show.

The ID.CODE concept previews a bold new design language that will set the template moving forward for a range of electric models VW is set to develop with its joint venture partners in China.

But intriguingly, the car also points to a self-driving future, with the brand claiming it has been “systematically designed for fully automated driving at Level 4”.

The Society of Automotive Engineers defines Level 4 as when a car is in full control of driving itself in specific circumstances and locations.

Describing the tech as an “autopilot” function – not to be confused with Tesla’s Level 2 Advanced Driver Assistance System of the same name – VW says it is facilitated by the “most advanced sensor, light, camera and screen systems of our time” which allow “comprehensive communication” with the surroundings – although did not provide specifics beyond this.

Nevertheless, the ID.CODE does provide some clues as to what could be feasibly be expected from a self-driving VW, with a retractable steering wheel creating additional space when it is in Level 4 mode, allowing the front seats to rotate and family members in the front and rear to face each other and have a chat, for example.

Related:Volkswagen Developing New Architecture for Automated EVs in China

Alternatively, occupants would have the option of reading, going online or watching movies, or even arranging the seats in such a way as to allow sleep. 


Ride-hailing operators, meanwhile, will be intrigued by the idea of Hygiene Mode, which can be activated when the car is empty and sees air filters and a robot vacuum cleaner called LUPO freshen the interior up. 

The VW also can interact and communicate with its driver and other road users. Examples of this include an intelligent lighting system at the front with “Interactive 3D eyes” – basically a light bar under the hood – that blink when the driver approaches.

When traveling in Level 4 mode, this same lighting system can inform other road users the car is driving itself, to enhance safety.

And there’s also an AI-assisted avatar that appears on the side windows to relay potentially important information, such as the weather forecast, when the driver comes to the car.

Although this all smacks of the headline-grabbing futuristic excess beloved of automakers in concept cars, the ID.CODE does have a key role to play in signposting VW’s future in China.

The athletic styling marks quite a departure from VW’s electric offerings to date, which, according to Thomas Schäfer, CEO of Volkswagen Passenger Cars, is “specifically geared towards the needs and wishes of our Chinese customers.”

Related:Volkswagen Invests $2.3B to Deploy Autonomous Vehicles in China

It’s all part of the “In China, For China” strategy which will see the German giant attack the world’s biggest market with new vigor, strengthening its position as the leading international automaker in the country.

The target is to sell 4 million vehicles there by 2030, and teaming up with local companies forms a key part of this strategy. Oliver Blume, Volkswagen Group CEO, explained: “Together with our partners, we are increasing our technological competitiveness and significantly reducing costs.”  

This has seen the company enter into a deal with XPeng to produce a new digital architecture for EVs, plus invest $2.3 billion in Beijing company Horizon Robotics to help develop autonomous car tech.

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About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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