Why a former VW exec predicts steering wheels will be optional by mid-decade

Europe

Former Volkswagen and Apple executive Johann Jungwirth is bullish about the future for autonomous vehicles.

Jungwirth, who is now a vice president at Intel-owned Mobileye, expects driverless taxis  to be on the road in Germany by next year.

Mobileye, which is augmenting its camera-based driver-assist systems with help from lidar maker Luminar, has permits to test Level 4 technology in the Germany, which it getting closer to allowing the commercialization driverless vehicle technology.

He expects robotaxi fleets to get Level 4 capability, which means the cars can take over driving, between 2022-25.

He sees the technology rolling out state by state in Germany during that period.

Starting in 2024 and 2025, he sees Level 4 being offered as standard equipment on high-end privately owned cars and the technology will be available as an option in other segments.

“At that point a person can decide whether to purchase a car with or without a steering wheel,” Jungwirth added during a conference focused on smart cars hosted by Automotive News Europe sister publication Automobilwoche.

His prediction seems to be right on target given the number of premium brands that are showing their ideas for vehicles without steering wheels.

The latest is the Audi Grandsphere concept. The large luxury sedan has the ability to turn into a lounge, at which time the steering wheel gets stowed and the driver can recline by up to 60 degrees.

Audi executives said they intend to sell a Level 4-capable vehicle to consumers by 2026.

We’ll see whether those models will indeed be offered with, or without, a steering wheel.

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