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(Pocket-lint) - "Trinity is a sort of crystallization point for our Accelerate strategy, a lighthouse project, our software dream car," CEO of the Volkswagen, Ralf Brandstätter, said on teasing VW's future electric car.

Project Trinity is where VW is heading, on the timeline for a 2026 launch and aiming to be the car that bring autonomous driving to the masses.

"Trinity will make autonomous driving in the volume segment possible for many people," says VW. It will launch at level 2+ with the ability to step up to level 4.

What that means, in real terms, is that it will offer "hands off" driving (remembering that legally, you actually need to keep your hands on the wheel) when it arrives, but be able to support "mind off" driving, which is where the car is so sophisticated, it doesn't need a human to intervene.

The big downside to level 4 autonomy is that it's not legal, yet, even though a number of cars could, to some extent, drive themselves.

Whether the world is ready for level 4 autonomy by 2026 is debatable. It was the same sort of message we heard from BMW with the iNext concept - now launched as the BMW iX - and Tesla has often talked about using Autopilot to do the same thing.

Moving that to one side, Project Trinity is designed to be the flag carrier for the next generation of electric cars from VW, but it's also a change in focus.

Rather offering lots of options, Trinity is going to offer fewer variants, with standardised hardware. It will turn to a digital approach, being able to activate functions on demand - using software to turn features on and off.

"In the future, the individual configuration of the vehicle will no longer be determined by the hardware at the time of purchase. Instead, customers will be able to add functions on demand at any time via the digital ecosystem in the car," says Brandstätter.

We've heard similar suggestions from BMW in the past and we know that Tesla already does that, to a certain extent.

The aim is to simplify the production process for VW, but still be able to sell the car to people that they want.

VW is describing Trinity as a "sedan" - or saloon - saying that it will come with high range and really short charging times, but it is also talking up the connectivity.

VW envisions a future where all its vehicles are networked, exchanging data so that other vehicles get the advantage of the VW Group's scale. VW says that Trinity will start this process, able to supply data on road data, traffic and accidents to other fleet vehicles.

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Dropping in mentions of neural networks and autonomous vehicles does make us chuckle that VW chose the Trinity name. There is a sense that we're hitting the point there the machines might be about to take over. Let's just wait to see what actually arrives in 2026.

"Throughout human history, we have been dependent on machines to survive. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony." (Morpheus, The Matrix.)

Writing by Chris Hall. Originally published on 5 March 2021.