From hands on to hands off, how autonomy will become reality

With the I.D. Vizzion concept car revealed at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, Volkswagen offered a look at what the self-driving car of 2030 might look like. But how, exactly, will we get to the future of vehicles without steering wheels or pedals? It’s been a long-standing source of debate around the auto industry, which has adopted five levels of autonomy to group these types of vehicles. Here’s our guide to how those five levels will mark the changes to come: 

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Where the VW I.D. VIZZION Goes, You Don’t Need a Steering Wheel

When it comes to the possibilities in the future of autonomous driving, the I.D. VIZZION concept vehicle from Volkswagen, unveiled in March at the Geneva Motor Show, is a good place to start. Built off the MEB electric vehicle platform, the I.D. VIZZION combines voice- and gesture-control technology and artificial intelligence software. The striking sedan package demonstrates what transportation could be like in the year 2030. What’s new about the I.D. VIZZION? The I.D. VIZZION is the first Volkswagen brand vehicle ever built without a steering wheel or pedals—everywhere the concept car could go, it would do so autonomously. The “digital chauffeur” wouldn’t just navigate and steer, but also recognize occupants and automatically adapt aspects of the interior such as climate control and music playlists to their preferences. It could even communicate with the outside world by projecting the image of crosswalk lines in front of the I.D. VIZZION to let pedestrians know they can safely pass in front. As with the first three I.D. electric vehicle concepts—the I.D., I.D. CROZZ and I.D. BUZZ—the I.D. VIZZION previews a model slated to enter production by 2022. But the I.D. VIZZION concept in Geneva highlights Volkswagen’s vision for a time further in the future, when so-called Level 5 full-autonomous driving becomes possible. A 2030 worldview As with other MEB-based models, the I.D. VIZZION has all-wheel drive provided by electric motors on the front and rear axle, producing a total of 302 hp. Its 111-kWh battery pack should provide a range of around 300 miles. It’s equipped with a phalanx of sensors—laser scanners, ultrasonic sensors, radar sensors front and rear, and cameras with a 360-degree view of the area surrounding the vehicle. To highlight its 2030 worldview, the I.D. VIZZION concept was styled with a new, sleek evolution of the VW electric vehicle DNA. Designers aimed to eliminate seams and obstructions for passengers, from doors that have no B-pillar to the window glass that lies flush to the bodywork. Meanwhile, a series of LED light strips surrounds the car, from the front grille through the sides and door handles to the rear fenders; the lights pulse when the vehicle recognizes one of its passengers through face recognition technology. The headlights are made from 8,000 HD Matrix LEDs that can be individually controlled and used to project displays in front of the car. Open the doors and there’s the sculpted, wheel-and-instrument-panel-free dash; the only protrusions are a pair of footrests for the front passengers. The I.D. VIZZION is designed to be controlled by voice and hand gestures and is integrated with augmented reality glasses to display vehicle data. For those who still want a true sense of control, there are two knobs on the center panel, mainly for turning the stereo up and down. While it may seem like a sci-fi idea of the future, nearly all of the technology in the I.D. VIZZION either exists already or is under development by VW and its suppliers. Given the rate of technological progress in the past few years, autonomous vehicles could evolve fast enough to turn today’s science fiction into science fact. of *Concept vehicle shown. Not available for sale. Specifications may change.

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VW’s GTI TCR makes its American debut with Rumcastle Racing

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – For the first time since January of 2013—when a pair of Volkswagen Jetta models competed in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge here at the Daytona International Speedway—the brand is back on the high-banked track. A lone Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR, fielded by a gutsy little privateer team from Virginia, re-introduced VW to the 3.56-mile road course inside the legendary oval track for the 2018 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season opener on January 26, a prelude to the weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. The four-hour CTSC race saw 41 cars in three classes both start and finish the event, including the number 31 Rumcastle LLC GTI, with brothers Luke and Tanner Rumberg at the wheel—both Daytona rookies—and experienced racer and coach Jon Miller helping out. They finished 28th, commendable not just for the fledgling team, but for their brand-new GTI, which was running as strong at the end as it was at the beginning, with only minor teething problems in between. The CTSC series, beginning with this race, now has three classes: The fastest class, Grand Sport, has race versions of sports cars like the McLaren GT4, the Audi R8 and the Aston Martin Vantage. The Street Tuner class includes less powerful cars like the Mini Cooper, the BMW 328i and the Porsche Cayman. In between, in terms of speed, is a new-to-the-series class called Touring Class Racing, or TCR, which is expected to replace the Street Tuner class in 2019. ST cars are converted from street cars to race cars by the teams, while the TCR cars are built at the factory as race cars, then sold to the teams. Audi already had a significant presence in the Continental Tire series, so it comes as no surprise that six of the seven TCR cars at Daytona were the new Audi RS3 LMS TCR, with only the Virginia-based Rumcastle team opting for the VW GTI. Why? “Because the GTI does really well in the European TCR competition,” said Owen Rumberg, grandfather of Tanner and Luke, and president of the Ashland, Virginia-based Manchester Hydraulics, a hydraulics repair company that sponsored the family-owned team. “Plus,” said Luke, 18, “it’s by far the best-looking car in the class.” No argument there—the Manchester Hydraulics GTI’s photo was featured on multiple web sites even before it took the green flag. The Rumberg family is no stranger to motorsports, having raced for years in series ranging from the National Auto Sport Association road racing club, to the modified ranks of the notorious little South Boston Speedway oval track, a training ground for multiple stock-car racing stars. But moving to the IMSA-run Continental Tire series is their first attempt at true national competition. The team hopes to run the entire schedule of 10 races, which take place as far from the team’s home as California and Canada, and as close as Virginia International Raceway. They definitely plan on making the next race at Florida’s Sebring International Raceway on March 16. Between now and then, they are hoping the series rule-makers might address an advantage the Audi vehicles have, namely better aerodynamics that allowed them to pass the GTI on Daytona’s long straightaways. Also distressing, Luke Rumberg said, was the way the Audi drivers could work together in the “draft,” when the cars line up nose-to-tail and sail down the straights at speeds much faster than one car can run by itself. “We just need more Volkswagen race cars!” he said. And that’s likely to happen, as the TCR class gains popularity in the next year.

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VW supports John F. Kennedy Center’s VSA Emerging Young Artists Program

Every fall, employees working at Volkswagen Group of American (VWGoA) headquarters in Herndon, Va., enjoy a more colorful, creative and vibrant view on their way in and out of the office. This is because Volkswagen supports VSA, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ international organization on arts and disability. Since 2002, VWGoA has supported the VSA Emerging Young Artists Program, a Jean Kennedy Smith Arts and Disability Program, recognizing talented young artists with disabilities from across the country. And as in years past, VWGoA again welcomed the artwork back to headquarters, on display in the office lobby for several weeks as part of the travelling exhibit, Electrify! “We are thrilled to once again support VSA’s Emerging Young Artist Competition, as the program not only empowers young artists but inspires our entire company,” said David Geanacopoulos, Senior Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and Public Policy, VWGoA. “The program combines art and culture while advocating for diversity and inclusion, all values that VWGoA promotes throughout the organization.” Both the exhibit, and the young – and incredibly inspiring – artists joined VWGoA colleagues and guests for the kick-off reception to celebrate their outstanding, award-winning pieces. VWGoA colleagues had the opportunity meet the young artists and hear about their artwork and the stories behind the pieces. “These young artists challenge us to see the world from a different point of view, and through their personal lens. Their work will spark debate and conversation, and ultimately ignite understanding,” said Betty Siegel, Director of VSA and Accessibility of the Kennedy Center. “We thank Volkswagen Group of America for their continued support in making this possible. We look forward to seeing the impact these 15 young artists and their work will have on invoking unity and inclusivity across the nation.” The 2017 exhibition theme, Electrify!, encouraged artists to excite the senses and awaken the audience’s curiosity. Hundreds of artists applied for this honor and of those, 15 were selected as finalists. After the exhibit leaves Volkswagen headquarters, it will receive national recognition, on display in galleries across the U.S. for a year until returning to the Kennedy Center for the last installation. “I am very honored to have been chosen to be a part of the 2017 VSA Young Emerging Artists Competition,” said Trinity Kai, grand prize winner for Insight, a work of gum dichromate over palladium. “It was a wonderful experience to be able to meet everyone involved in the program – both the fellow artists and all of those who support this incredible program. I enjoyed the reception at Volkswagen, meeting the employees and sharing my story with them. VSA has already impacted my life because it’s brought together such a wonderful and unique group of artists, provided us with the opportunity to learn from each other and make important connections at this stage in our careers.” Additionally, all finalists receive a cash award and an expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC for a three-day session of workshops and discussions at the Kennedy Center to promote professional development and career advancement. To learn more about the 2017 VSA Emerging Young Artist Competition finalists, visit For more information about the Kennedy Center or the VSA Emerging Young Artist Program, go to

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The Volkswagen Arteon arrives in America, gracefully

Many cars are designed to not make much of a statement, to blend into the ground like a pair of black shoes. If you want your vehicle to go unnoticed on the street and the valet stand, the new Volkswagen Arteon will not be for you. Coming to America later this year, the U.S. version of the Arteon four-door coupe arrives as the new flagship of Volkswagen in America. Bigger in most dimensions than the outgoing CC, with the latest in available automotive tech and comfort features, the Arteon combines a powerful engine with a spacious interior, all wrapped in one of the most beautiful designs to ever wear a VW badge. “We wanted to offer a premium model in the midsize sedan world that would really catch the eye,” said Stefanie Obenhaupt, Volkswagen Group of America’s director of product marketing for full-size vehicles. “The Arteon will help shape the VW brand in America.” Begin with the lights: Full LED units all around the car curve gracefully into chrome bars on the grille that span the entire width of the Arteon’s front. The hood builds upon the visual width by stretching to cover the top of the fenders, while the side silhouette builds on a chrome-surrounded window opening and a sizable rear hatch with integrated spoiler, with wheel choices up to 20 inches. Higher trim lines offer a panoramic sunroof and a power hatch that opens with a kick of your foot. (For those whose states require front license plates, there’s a snap-in adapter that preserves the lines in the grille). of “The Arteon combines the design elements of a traditional sports car with the elegance and space of a fastback,” says Klaus Bischoff, head of design for the Volkswagen brand. “It’s an avant-garde business class gran turismo that speaks to the heart and the head alike.” Built off the MQB architecture, the Arteon’s power comes from a 2.0-liter TSI turbocharged engine, making 268 horsepower.1 The engine is paired with an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, with optional 4Motion all-wheel-drive. The Arteon will be fitted with the DCC adaptive damping system, allowing drivers to choose different suspension modes, from Comfort to Sport. Optional driver assistance features range from automatic cruise control that works in stop-and-go traffic to parking assist, lane-keeping assist and automatic high-beam adjustment.2 On the inside, the Arteon’s available tech list begins with the Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, a 12-inch screen that replaces the traditional gauges with customizable displays. The 8-inch touchscreen entertainment system can be maxxed out with a 700-watt, 11-speaker Dynaudio premiumsound system. There’s also available three-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front and rear seats, and even massaging front seats for those long trips. Despite the coupe profile, rear-seat head room is ample, thanks to the long wheelbase, and the combination of hatchback and folding rear seats give the Arteon a sizable expanse of cargo space. Pricing for the Arteon will be revealed closer to its on-sale date anticipated for this fall, but it will carry a sticker price that starts around that for a fully optioned mid-size sedan.

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#TBT: 1987 Volkswagen Golf Twin-Engine Pikes Peak car

No motorsports event carries quite the challenge or history of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. First completed in 1916, and run nearly every year since, Pikes Peak has become synonymous with masterful drivers and brutal machines able to speed up the 12-mile, 156-curve route, where one mistake can lead to a dangerous lesson in gravity. In the 1980s, Pikes Peak was the second home of the Group B rally cars – turbocharged monsters of road and gravel rallying. And it was a top target for Volkswagen Motorsports and rally driver Jochi Kleint, who finished third in 1985 and fourth in 1986, close calls that had given the team insights into what kind of monster they needed to breed. Unlike today, the route up Pikes Peak was still partially gravel, meaning traction was at a premium. The thin air at high altitudes meant engines would suffer great losses of power without forced induction. Those challenges led the team to build a Golf unique in the history of VW – one with an engine in front, and another engine out back. Both engines were based on the 16-valve, 1.8-liter four-cylinder units then offered in the GTI. Each carried a turbocharger, and had a mechanical throttle system that would link their outputs as necessary; the driver could choose rear, front or four-wheel drive. And that output was massive – 652 hp, enough even with the weight of two motors to catapult the Golf from rest to 62 mph in 3.4 seconds. The design proved itself from the start, with Kleint having the fastest time by the halfway point. Yet just three turns and a quarter-mile from the finish line, Kleint had to stop; a suspension ball joint failed, making it too risky for him to finish. “Competing in this race is an unbelievable honor,” says Kleint today. “Even if it didn’t ultimately end with a victory, the three Pikes Peak races were some of the best experiences in my motorsport career.” It would be the last time Volkswagen officially competed at Pikes Peak, until this June, when it returns with an all-electric race car. More on that coming soon.  

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For the Love of Skiing, Flying, and VW

Odds are your resume doesn’t include skills like JT Holmes has: award-winning Hollywood stunt coordinator, backcountry freestyle skier, ski BASE jumping pioneer, wingsuit pilot, off-road racer, speedrider, and classic VW Beetle lover. For 37-year-old Holmes, adrenaline surges are just another day at the office. Growing up in the Bay Area, Holmes’ adventurous career took flight in Squaw Valley, a ski resort located just west of Lake Tahoe. By age 15, Holmes says he knew he wanted to go pro. By 17 he was a sponsored athlete appearing in high-end ski films. His chosen sports tend to involve speed, risk, and altitude for an exhilarating combo, especially for those who prefer to hang out closer to earth and watch on screen. Speedriding — a sport that combines skiing and parachuting — is Holmes’ current favorite. “Speedriding lets you transition from skiing to flying at will,” he says. “You’re able to ski in places where other people can’t because of hazards like cliffs or forests.” All in the Volkswagen family  There’s more to Holmes than airborne adrenaline though. A love of the VW Beetle runs in his family, dating back to the tradition of his grandpa buying a new one for each of his kids when they graduated college. Through the years, Holmes showed an interest in one of the family rides — a 1970 dark cherry red Beetle nicknamed “Rosebud” that was passed from his aunt, down to his cousin, and then to his mother. The classic car eventually became his when he graduated college and restored it, and they’ve been companions ever since. “Some people have classic cars they just look at,” Holmes says of Rosebud. “That’s not mine; she’s not a piece of jewelry. She’s my everyday car.” Holmes takes Rosebud from town to beach to campground to ski resort. He says he enjoys meeting other VW enthusiasts, whether on the road while doing the “wave” to fellow Beetle owners, or hearing stories from other Beetle fans. “They’re just fun, good-vibe cars,” he says. Downhill thrills See Holmes defying gravity in this year’s Warren Miller film, Line of Descent presented by Volkswagen. Founded in 1949, the Warren Miller Film Tour signifies the opening of ski season and has an enthusiastic powder-hungry following. “I was that stoked kid that looked up to people on that big screen, and now I’m on that big screen,” says Holmes. “It’s an honor to see people’s reactions. You just feel lucky to be chosen to represent the mountain.” Remembering an icon Warren Miller, a passionate skier and iconic filmmaker, passed away on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 at age 93. During Miller’s career, he made more than 500 movies and will be remembered as a pioneer filmmaker who introduced skiing and snowboarding to a wide audience – even to those who had never set foot on a slope. “He gave me my very first “break” in the ski industry. In 1995, as a 15-year-old who lived and breathed skiing…, to be chosen to ski in a Warren Miller film was a dream come true,” says Holmes. “Every element of my life and career traces back to my decisiveness as a young teen to become a pro skier. That decisiveness is credited to Warren Miller.” Download or watch the full trailer of Warren Miller’s latest film, Line of Descent presented by Volkswagen.

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