(Berlin) German automaker Volkswagen will begin testing fully autonomous vehicle models at its Austin, Texas plant in July, with a view to marketing from 2026, he said Thursday.

“Volkswagen America is launching its first self-driving vehicle testing program in Austin as early as July 2023” and “anticipates a commercial launch of these self-driving vehicles as early as 2026” in the U.S. state, whose licensing legislation for this technology is the latest. one of the most advanced, explains a press release from the group.

“Ten Utility Vehicles” Electric Model ID. Buzz, Volkswagen’s battery-powered minibus, will be equipped with “level 4” “autonomous driving technology”, a degree of autonomy that does not require human intervention on certain routes, such as highways.

This technology was developed thanks to a partnership between the German company and Mobileye, the driving assistance subsidiary of the American group Intel.

After Austin, tests could be conducted in “four other cities” in the United States.

Volkswagen is engaged in a race for the electric and connected car to be able to defend its place, especially in China, its main market, where competition is intensifying against local players.

To achieve this objective, the group overhauled its software strategy in May, with the overhaul of the Cariad subsidiary, responsible for coding the software for future electric and autonomous models.

The group also announced in March that it wanted to devote two-thirds of its total investments of 180 billion euros to these technologies until 2027, up 13% compared to its previous multi-year investment plan.

The group’s main competitors are also investing in this technology.

The German Mercedes is the most advanced, and since last year has been marketing vehicles in Germany equipped with an autonomous driving system that makes it possible to dispense with human intervention in certain situations, such as in the event of heavy traffic on the motorway, says “level 3”.

Tesla boss Elon Musk said in early July that the company was “very close” to developing its first 100% self-driving electric car, possibly “later this year”.

But the development of these technologies is strewn with pitfalls, between security problems and high development costs.

Volkswagen and Ford suffered a setback at the end of 2022, forced to give up their partnership in the American start-up Argo AI, specializing in autonomous driving, which ceased operations.