The microbus is a favorite among collectors and those who treasure nostalgia from the 60s and 70s. Volkswagen has always recognized the world’s love affair with the microbus and decided to bring back some memories with a 21st-century twist. Today they revealed the Type 20 Concept Vehicle born again from a 1962 Type 2 11-window microbus.
An electrified VW bus
The original air-cooled 1200cc 40-horsepower engine was replaced by an all-electric drivetrain made up of a 10 kWh battery, 2,500-Watt onboard charger, and electric motor that sends 120 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque to the wheels—three times more powerful than the original.
Walk up to the modernized microbus and a custom-designed air suspension developed with Porsche lifts the body. Instead of a typical key fob, biometric identification secures the vehicle. Integrated into the driver’s side second window is a wide-angle camera that uses a real-time facial recognition system that identifies users. An NVIDIA Jetson TX2 prototyping package handles image recognition.
This car talks back
With the emergence of Siri, Google Voice, and Alexa, the idea of using conversation to handle tasks is more commonplace today. In this case, the developers added a conversational digital assistant to anticipate the needs of the passengers further. Directional microphones in three zones—the front exterior, driver cockpit, and rear passenger zone—are integrated into the Type 20 to receive natural language commands. If you ask it, “are you ready to go?”, it will reply with the vehicle’s battery level.
All of the orange parts you see on the Type 20 were created using generative design methodology showcasing Autodesk’s software engineering and design tools. After entering the design goals and physical parameters such as maximum strength with minimal weight, manufacturing processes, and cost limitations, the generative design software calculates all the possible permutations and solutions. The resulting patterns emulate natural evolution to create organic shapes. The wheels, for example, may look atypical but are 20 percent lighter than forged aluminum.
What wasn’t demonstrated today was the holographic infotainment system. Integrated into the dashboard is a Looking Glass II holographic display generating 3D images viewable without the need for VR glasses.
“We are excited to move into our next chapter as the IECC, to continue designing innovations that will bring the Volkswagen Group vehicles into the future with cutting-edge technology,” said Nikolai Reimer, Senior Vice President of the IECC. “The Type 20 is a fantastic example of how we celebrate our heritage while striving to advance our technology.”
ERL expands and gets a new name
The reveal took place at Volkswagen Group’s Innovation and Engineering Center California (IECC), formerly known as the VW Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL). The Silicon Valley facility works on projects that shape Volkswagen Group future vehicles. From its humble beginnings in 1998 with three employees and a small office near the Stanford University campus, The IECC in California is one of three global Group Innovation centers that work on leading-edge vehicle technologies for the VW Group and engages more than 180 engineers, social scientists, researchers, and product designers.
Over the past two decades, the center developed several key vehicle technologies, such as predictive navigation and online speech, and working with the Stanford Racing Team to build “Stanley,” the first robotic car to win the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge by navigating 132 miles of desert without the help of humans.