The Volkswagen Group has lagged behind in the mobility segment, but the automaker jumped in with both feet in 2016 with the launch of the MOIA mobility unit, which last December rolled out an electric ride-sharing concept.
But VW doesn't want MOIA to just provide ride-sharing and carpooling opportunities for private drivers; rather, the automaker wants a slice of the potentially lucrative self-driving taxi pie.
MOIA will begin with an Uber-style ride-sharing service, but Bloomberg reported Tuesday that self-driving cars are at the center of the project. With self-driving cars, MOIA will be able to directly provide carpooling, ride-sharing, and other mobility services. In the process, VW will take a targeted approach to ensure it invests in the right areas and doesn't burn through piles of cash, as some of its rivals have. The target date to have the fully automated services online is 2025.
"Establishing a profitable business model and optimizing what we do is key before a global rollout. We don’t want to scale up mistakes," Ole Harms, head of MOIA, told Bloomberg.
The unit's first full-scale service will be a fleet of 150 vans in the German city of Hanover, which will deploy in the coming weeks with human drivers. The rollout follows a trial of 35 electric MOIA vans conducted in recent months. Following the Hanover launch, MOIA in 2019 will move to fellow German city Hamburg for a commercial service with 500 vehicles in the first two years.
As self-driving technology becomes a reality, the human drivers will be eliminated from the equation. According to the Bloomberg report, cities may initially restrict self-driving vehicles to ride-sharing fleets like the one MOIA is proposing. VW has said in the past it will launch its first fully self-driving car in 2021. Meanwhile, Waymo, previously the Google Self-Driving Car Project, is already testing a self-driving taxi service in Phoenix, Arizona and says a commercial service will be up and running this year.