Volkswagen's Iconic Microbus Gets Update for the Driverless Age

PHOTO: Volkswagen released this rendering of their I.D. Buzz concept vehicle on Jan. 8, 2017.PlayVolkswagen
WATCH Inside Volkswagen's Concept Car Buzz

High-tech hippies rejoice! Volkswagen's beloved microbus, which defined the Age of Aquarius, has gotten a digital makeover for the age of driverless vehicles.

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The German auto maker unveiled a concept car version of its microbus at the Detroit Auto Show on Sunday evening, and this version of the beloved van, known as the I.D. Buzz, could end up playing a key role in Volkswagen's plan to sell 1 million electric vehicles annually by 2025.

Volkswagen said the concept car is the world's first electric multi-purpose vehicle to be equipped with a fully autonomous driving mode.

The I.D. Buzz, which VW calls the "Microbus for a new era,” will seat up to eight and have two luggage compartments. It can also be adjusted to have two lounge seats.

“Our aim was to come up with something that’s likeable, which would touch the heritage of the brand,” Head of Volkswagen Design Klaus Bischoff said in a statement. “The Microbus was always a freedom machine, always about being independent. ... With the huge range, the car will allow us to go new places.”

PHOTO: Volkswagen released this rendering of their I.D. Buzz concept vehicle on Jan. 8, 2017.Volkswagen
Volkswagen released this rendering of their I.D. Buzz concept vehicle on Jan. 8, 2017.

The company said the word “Buzz” in the concept’s name is a play on word “bus” and refers to the silent buzzing of the drive system. I.D. stands for “iconic design,” the company said.

Volkswagen spent most of last year combating the fallout from a diesel engine emissions scandal, which lead to its decision to shift its focus toward developing electric vehicles.

The scandal erupted after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in September 2015 that the company admitted to building "defeat device" software into its diesel vehicles. The device turned pollution controls on during tests and off in real-world driving. The scandal has cost VW sales and has tarnished its brand worldwide.

Oliver Schmidt, who was general manager of the engineering and environmental office for VW of America, was charged today in a criminal complaint with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and wire fraud, according to the Associated Press. Schmidt is the second VW employee to be arrested as part of an ongoing federal investigation into auto maker, the AP reported.

Volkswagen said in a statement today that it is cooperating with the Justice Department in the probe. "It would not be appropriate to comment on any ongoing investigations or to discuss personnel matters," the company said in its statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.