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Production Volkswagen ID Buzz seemingly shown off in sketch form

The Microbus sketch was released alongside an announcement regarding VW's autonomy initiative for commercial vehicles.

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The ID Buzz is inching closer to production.

Volkswagen

On Friday Volkswagen announced a new R&D program for autonomous driving systems in its commercial vehicles, which will first be introduced in 2025. But that's not the most important thing -- alongside the autonomy announcement, VW released a sketch of what sure looks like the production version of the long-awaited ID Buzz.

VW's caption for the image says "concept car," but there are too many differences from the original 2017 concept for this sketch to be of anything less than a close-to-production prototype. Thankfully, the shape of the ID Buzz remains extremely faithful to the concept, with a bluff front end that looks just like the one on the original Microbus. We were worried that VW might need to give the Buzz more of a "real" bumper or protruding hood for production, but that doesn't seem to be the case -- the front end has a bit more of a bump to it, but not enough to ruin the styling. It also retains that glorious greenhouse and the quarter windows at the A-pillars, though the pillars do look thicker than the concept's.

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The 2017 ID Buzz concept.

Volkswagen

The headlights have more of a rounded, elongated shape that matches that of the ID 4 crossover, instead of the angular units of the concept, and they extend onto the front fenders. The taillights are larger, too, and also extend onto the body side. There's no more metal trim around the body and front end to give that classic two-tone look, but a line across the body side in the sketch suggests that the production Buzz will still be offered with retro color schemes. Another tell that this is the production model are the intakes in the front bumper, which look far more functional and feasible than the concept's.

Some other tells that this shows a production-ready Buzz? The wheels are nabbed from a production Volkswagen, there's a spoiler at the rear of the car, the lower body has black plastic cladding like that of the ID 4, there's a more protruding rear bumper and the VW badge at the front is a real badge and not a giant LED piece (though it does light up). That weird hump on the roof is most definitely part of Argo AI's autonomous sensor suite, as are the cylindrical doohickeys on the doors and front bumper -- don't expect the normal Buzz to have those.

Obviously, there's a chance that what you see here isn't actually the production Buzz. But released images and sketches like this are always intentional, and with the Buzz set to finally enter production in 2023, VW says it will be revealed next year. That means the final production design is definitely locked in by now, and thus a drawn-out teaser campaign could begin. What remains to be seen is whether the production model will retain the ID Buzz name, or ditch the Buzz moniker for a number or a less silly name.

Alright, back to the autonomous stuff, because it is actually a big deal. Volkswagen says it will introduce autonomous systems for use in real-life traffic by its commercial vehicles in 2025, and field trials are beginning this year in Germany. The self-driving system is developed by Argo AI, which VW made a major investment in last year (alongside Ford), and VW's aim is to create an autonomous ride-hailing service using the ID Buzz. Said service will be available to regular people in the middle of the decade in "select cities," likely all in Europe.

While VW's commercial vehicle division is using Argo AI's systems, the company is handling self-driving development for road cars in-house, with Waymo as the benchmark. Volkswagen is also investing billions of dollars in the Car.Software Organisation, which is developing Level 4 autonomous systems for the private mobility sector.

Now playing: Watch this: Get a closer took at the Volkswagen ID Buzz Cargo van
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