GENEVA Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) will show off a fully self-driving car at the Geneva auto show, as part of the German carmaker's drive to be at the forefront of new technologies in the wake of its diesel emissions scandal.
Europe's biggest carmaker has said it will invest billions of euros in electric cars, ride-hailing and automated driving, and launch over 30 electric models by 2025 as it battles to recover from its emissions test cheating.
The self-driving concept car called Sedric - a so-called Level 5 vehicle capable of fully automated operation - is a precursor for more such models from the Volkswagen (VW) group in years to come, Chief Executive Matthias Mueller said on Monday on the eve of car executives' annual gathering in Geneva.
VW is hiring top specialists and plans to spend several billions of euros on automated driving alone, Mueller said, without being more specific.
Sedric can carry 4 passengers and could be used for ride-sharing fleets as well as for individual consumers, VW said.
Internet giant Google (GOOGL.O) was a forerunner in self-driving technology with its 2015 prototype vehicle, but has since been challenged by companies ranging from Uber to Apple (AAPL.O), as well as traditional carmakers.
Manufacturers and their suppliers are working on different technology suites - including cameras, radar and laser imaging technology lidar - to enable vehicles to drive themselves, but it will take years for these vehicles to come to market.
Mercedes-Benz (DAIGn.DE) unveiled its fully autonomous F 015 luxury concept two years ago. But Toyota (7203.T) has said it does not expect to see Level 5 cars in widespread use for another 10-15 years, while Ford (F.N) does not plan to offer such vehicles for consumers until 2025 or later.
(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Mark Potter)