Volkswagen has unveiled the electric van that’s a key part of its MOIA autonomous vehicle ride-sharing service. Shown yesterday at TechCrunch Disrupt, it’ll carry up to six passengers with niceties like roomy individual seats, ambient LED lighting, WiFi and device power ports. The van-pooling MOIA service will launch in Hamburg in 2018 with 200 vans, letting passengers enter a departure point and destination in an app. “We’ve set ourselves the goal of taking more than a million cars off the roads in Europe and the USA by 2025,” said MOIA CEO Ole Harms.
MOIA’s aim is to eventually put autonomous, purpose-built vehicles on the road without drivers. For its first electric van, however, the company isn’t emphasizing the self-driving part. Rather, it’s focusing on electric vehicle benefits, including the pollution-free 300 km (186 mile) range, 30-minute time to an 80 percent charge and quiet operation. At Disrupt, the company said that the business can still be profitable without the need for autonomous operation.
VW was able to get the MOIA van on the road and present a functional vehicle in just ten months thanks to “agile” design techniques used at its factory in Onsnabrück. It has already incorporated passenger feedback from tests that started in October using the Volkswagen T6 van. To make the carpooling app work efficiently, the company is developing virtual “bus stops” every 250 yards or so in cities where it’ll operate.