Volkswagen has expanded its lineup of futuristic all-electric cars, with a sports utility vehicle promising totally hands-off “level four” autonomous driving. The “I.D. Roomz,” unveiled Tuesday, joins five previously-announced vehicles in an impressive lineup that could help shape the future of driving.
“The ‘I.D. Roomzz’ shows us what we can expect from full-size electric SUVs in the future,” said Klaus Bischoff, Chief Designer at the Volkswagen brand in a statement. “The puristic look emphasizes the clear function and the user experience is intuitive and natural.”
Little is known about the car at this stage, but Volkswagen is promising new seat configurations, customizable lights, and high-quality materials. Pricing is also unclear, which will determine if it competes with the high-end Tesla Model X or low-end Model Y. The vehicle is set for a full unveiling at Auto Shanghai, taking place April 16 to 24.
The “I.D. Roomz,” which is set to hit China’s roads first as early as 2021, is a sharp reminder of how the industry is preparing to launch full autonomous driving within the next few years. The car will offer an “I.D. Pilot” mode that offers level four autonomy, defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers as a car that can drive without human intervention through a limited set of circumstances, limited by factors like a city’s limits.
This sort of timeline is in keeping with comments from other industry figures. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is particularly bullish about autonomy, predicting that the company’s cars will be able to drive themselves by the end of next year. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said in October 2017 that full autonomy would arrive in four years, placing the deadline around 2021. Ford Autonomous Vehicles CEO Sherif Marakby told The Street in January that “at some point before 2021, we have to have no driver.” Others are slightly more cautious: ARM told Inverse in September 2018 that level four will likely arrive in 2024.
The “Roomzz” is part of Volkswagen’s broader strategy to cement itself as a key player in electric cars. The company announced in January plans to invest $800 million in its Chattanooga, Tennessee plant to create over 1,000 new jobs and build electric vehicles. Volkswagen aims to sell 150,000 EVs worldwide by 2020 and one million by 2025. Its first all-electric production facility in Germany is set to come online before the end of this year.
The I.D. range, which uses the modular electric toolkit chassis, covers a broad range of vehicles. The first vehicle will be the I.D. Crozz concept car. Volkswagen also plans a Buzz hippie van, an I.D. Vizzion saloon, a standard I.D. car that’s completely carbon neutral, and an I.D. Buggy concept unveiled last month.
With Volkswagen’s lineup showing one final car shrouded in mystery, the firm may have more surprises up its sleeve.