VW I.D. Vizzion Concept to Put a Sporty Face on Level 5 Autonomy at the Geneva Motor Show
Volkswagen's Geneva Motor Show concept gives hope to the autonomous cube haters.
Volkswagen will unveil its I.D. Vizzion concept car—the fourth in its I.D. series—at the Geneva Motor Show next week, and its mission brief seems a tad confusing. The sleek four-door sedan looks, for lack of a better term, sporty—at least according to the teaser illustrations the company provided last week. Curious, because most concept vehicles purporting to reveal our self-driving future so far have been of the space-efficient cubic variety—rolling pods designed to hold people who may or may not know each other, or function as some sort of mobile den.
As functional and efficient as these cubic soulsuckers might be, a future populated with robo-boxes isn’t remotely exciting. In fact, it’s downright bleak, with vehicles sapped of energy, purpose, and any sense of personal statement. After all, how can you even make a statement if the car you’re occupying not only doesn’t do anything cool—well, apart from drive itself—but you probably don’t even own the thing in the first place. If they’re taxis, nobody will care what the things look like.
This VW isn’t that. In fact, the Vizzion concept is pretty stylin’, with impossibly large wheels and gracefully arcing seats. It’s intended to show off VW’s idea of a Level 5 autonomous vehicle—that is, one that requires no human intervention, and can handle all roads and conditions—and is being released concurrently with a two-minute video you can see below that lays out how we’ll get to full autonomy, as well as the myriad benefits it will bring. But the video and the car don’t really sync up—at least not visually. The video suggests the boxy vision of autonomy, while the Vizzion hints at something more...interesting.
The all-electric Geneva-bound concept is apparently going to show off new control interfaces and augmented-reality interactions, but the capper is clearly the visual energy of the design. The Vizzion sits slung low and looks fast. (Hell, the name even sounds fast.) Of course, it’s tough to call anything without a steering wheel a “sports car,” since you’re but a passenger in the thing, but this and the car’s output of around 300 horsepower—via one motor at each axle, and a claimed 413-mile range to boot—does smack of something that might be dubbed a “sport experience” in future marketing literature. Perhaps such a car will allow for a degree of control-in-motion that no Level 5 vehicle concept has suggested so far, though what form that could take remains as unclear as anything else that far down the line.
Is it possible, then, that the low center of gravity and the streamlined aerodynamics present here suggest that in the future we’ll be able to tell our cars to break a few laws on remote stretches of road, or to hustle us through these mountain twisties in something approaching actual anger? Will we be able to hop in and tell the car to do something—anything—exciting?
We’ll know more on Tuesday, when VW presents more details on the latest member of its electric car lineup during the Geneva Motor Show. In the meantime, let’s enjoy this glimmer of hope that car manufacturers haven’t given up on the idea of a fun future experience...even if it is bookended by robotics.