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Volkswagen I.D. Buzz Concept Preview

04_Volkswagen_ID_Buzz_Concept_OEM.jpg Volkswagen I.D. Buzz Concept | Manufacturer image

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Looks like: VW’s iconic Microbus modernized

Defining characteristics: Fully autonomous capability

Ridiculous features: LED headlights “close” when the car is off to mimic sleeping; it’s creepy

Chance of being mass-produced: Some form of the I.D. brand of electric vehicles is planned for production in 2020

Volkswagen is revisiting the brand’s iconic Microbus shape at the 2017 North American International Auto Show with the I.D. Buzz concept. It may look like a nostalgic throwback, but it’s packed with a smorgasbord of technology and seating for eight. The I.D. Buzz is the second concept in VW’s “I.D” lineup of concepts that preview its next-generation of electric cars, following the less-descript I.D. compact concept that debuted at the Paris Motor Show in 2016.

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Like that concept, the I.D. Buzz is all-electric and has fully autonomous capabilities. Unlike that concept, the Buzz features two electric motors (one at each axle) for an electric all-wheel-drive system churning out a combined 369 horsepower; zero-to-60 mph is a claimed 5 seconds. VW estimates range at 270 miles, and charge time using the Combined Charging System will take 30 minutes to charge the 111-kilowatt-hour battery to 80 percent.

By 2025, Volkswagen plans to offer a car with the self-driving system that’s teased in the I.D. Buzz. In fully autonomous mode, laser scanners extend from the roof and work with ultrasonic sensors, radar, and side and front cameras to read the road. The spokeless steering wheel retracts into the instrument panel during fully autonomous mode and the front seats are free to swivel rearward for front occupants to mingle with rear passengers. A configurable center console slides from between the front seats rearward and not only transforms into a table but keeps the party going with removable Beats Bluetooth loudspeakers. The console, called I.D. Box, also features a removable tablet that in manual driving mode is the main center console control display. 

There’s plenty of room for fully autonomous travel parties, with seating for up to eight occupants. At 194.5 inches long, the Buzz concept is a big van; it’s as long as a 2017 Honda Pilot but taller, so there’s minivan-levels of cargo space: up to 162.5 cubic feet. If those parties go long into the night, the third row folds flat to make a bed.

The Buzz’s list of trick ideas is long and includes VW’s Digital Key, which links to a phone and allows access to the vehicle using the phone. The program can also remember individual preferences like seating position, climate settings, stereo settings and ambient light configurations. Perhaps less likely to make it to production are the Buzz’s exterior mood lighting: The front face’s LED lights are expressive like a human eye and go slim like its eyes are closed when the car is off; when the car is unlocked, it greets drivers with a light show. And when the Buzz is driving autonomously and detects pedestrians, the LED headlights will look at the identified pedestrian. Now that’s creepy — useful for alerting pedestrians, but it could also be the start of a horror movie.

Volkswagen plans to have some form of its I.D. lineup of electric cars on the road by 2020 and a vehicle with fully autonomous capabilities by 2025.

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