If you thought Volkswagen would be content to introduce a few electric cars built on its all electric MEB chassis and then call it a day, think again. The company continues to take steps that show it is serious about being a full participant in the EV revolution, including software and autonomous driving solutions.
Other than its penchant for inserting periods into places where the don’t belong (viz. ID.3), Volkswagen is flexing its muscles to expand software development activities. As of January 1, all software development will be assigned to a new division within the Volkswagen Group known as Car.Software, according to a company press release.
The new unit will be based at Audi Electronics Ventures but will incorporate sites in Berlin, Bochum, Ingolstadt, Stuttgart, and Wolfsburg, as well as other Volkswagen software organizations in Seattle and Beijing. The plan is to attract the best and brightest electronics engineers from every part of the Group and assemble them into one team.
With additional hires from outside the company, the goal is to have 10,000 digital experts under the Car.Software umbrella developing software for vehicle and digital ecosystems by 2025. The ultimate goal is to develop a dedicated software brand within the Volkswagen Group that will service the needs of Group members and offer products and services to other companies in the automotive sphere.
“With our Car.Software organization, we will create an ideal platform for pioneering software development in the Volkswagen Group. We are stepping up our efforts,” says Christian Senger, member of the Volkswagen board responsible with company wide responsibility for in-vehicle software. “We will increase our competitiveness in the Volkswagen Group by controlling a much larger share of the value creation in the digitalization of our vehicles going forward. For this reason we will also develop software on a cross-brand basis in the Car.Software organization. This will allow us to achieve important synergies and economies of scale for all brands.”
At the present time, only 10% of software development is done in-house. The company expects its Car.Software unit will increase that to 60% by 2025. It will develop cross-brand software in five domains: Connected Car & Device Platform, Intelligent Body & Cockpit, Automated Driving, Vehicle Motion & Energy and Digital Business & Mobility Services.
Those domains will cover the development work on one standard vehicle operating system — vw.os — for all vehicles in the Volkswagen Group and their connection to the Volkswagen Automotive Cloud, a standardized infotainment and automated driving platform. The budget for the division is $7 billion between now and 2025. “Having a uniform software architecture will enable Volkswagen to generate sizable economies of scale in the Group, substantially reducing per-vehicle software costs across all brands,” the company says.
Enhanced E-Mobility In Hamburg
Volkswagen is expanding its zero emissions and e-mobility partnership with the city of Hamburg. Jürgen Rittersberger, Senior Vice President Group Strategy, says in a press release, “Hamburg is and remains an ideal partner for the Volkswagen Group. Over the last three years we have trialed and implemented numerous projects in the city. For example, we have tested autonomous driving and parking, put MOIA on the road, and forged ahead with electrification. Together with the city of Hamburg, we want to continue this success story with further concrete projects and to work on making mobility as sustainable, efficient and safe as possible. An important example is the start of WeShare in spring 2020.”
The WeShare fleet in Hamburg will feature more than 1,000 e-Golf and e-up! electric vehicles by late spring. Later in 2020, they will be supplemented by ID.3 models. As with the WeShare program in Berlin, the cars available to Hamburg residents will operate based on a free floating basis, meaning there will be no fixed collection points. The goal is to offer customers maximum flexibility and availability.
Volkswagen will also increase the number of all electric vans in the Hamburg MOIA ride sharing fleet from 200 to 500. MOIA is now integrated with the city’s public transportation ride sharing app which provides on demand ride sharing services.
MAN, the heavy truck and bus division of the Volkswagen Group, will deliver 20 MAN City E electric buses to the Hamburg Public Transport Association by the end of next year. A second life storage system will be connected to the charging network at the public transit depot to test the behavior of used batteries after service in buses and in stationary use under real world conditions. MAN, the port of Hamburg, and trucking company Jakob Weets will cooperate in a test of fully autonomous trucks at the Altenwerder Container Terminal.
Also in Hamburg, the Audi division of Volkswagen has successfully demonstrated networking between traffic lights and vehicles to improve traffic flow and provide driver support under the “Traffic Light Information” pilot project in Hamburg which is now available for use in other German cities.
In sum, Volkswagen is about more than building electric cars. It is a full participant in new mobility strategies, including connected and autonomous driving. Tesla has been the primary first mover in both fields, but the German brand is pushing hard to catch up. It appears to be one of the few legacy automakers that will still be around in 10 years as the EV, ride sharing, and autonomous driving revolutions forever alter how humans get from one place to another in the future.