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2022 FIFA World Cup will feature self-driving Volkswagen electric cars

VW said Qatar will be the maiden country for the technology -- the same year it hosts the soccer competition.

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Soccer fans, your ride awaits.

Andrew Trahan Photography

The self-driving Volkswagens are coming, but not to the US. At least not yet. VW said on Monday that it plans to put a fleet of self-driving electric vehicles on the road in Qatar in 2022. That, not coincidentally, is the year the Arab country will host the FIFA World Cup.

Just like Toyota plans to flex its technology muscles during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the World Cup should give VW a big spotlight as fans from around the world flock to the country. The German automaker said the autonomous EVs will be based on the ID Buzz concept, which will give way to a production electric van in the spirit of the original Microbus. It's likely the production ID Buzz will form the basis of the autonomous cars.

The technology will operate at Level 4 on the SAE autonomy scale, which will let the car do all the driving, even in the event something goes wrong. Anything under Level 4 and the car needs to be able to hand controls back to the driver.

Closed tests of the vehicles will begin next year, according to VW, and trials will start in 2021 ahead of the big game. In the meantime, VW is working with local officials to implement the infrastructure, both physical and digital, needed to ensure the vehicles operate as intended.

While this is a big deal, if it happens, the autonomous cars won't be able to go anywhere. Instead, they'll work on "semifixed" routes. Perhaps they'll run from the World Cup stadiums to local hot spots and hotels, for example. No one will be able to flag one and take it on an extended trip, as there will certainly be geofencing at work.

VW has, overall, been rather slow to adopt self-driving technology as others pour millions of dollars into development. That changed after VW created its own self-driving car division and tied a closer knot with Ford to work with Argo AI.

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