The Volkswagen Group opened a new section today called Car.Software. The goal of the new unit is to raise the amount of software developed in house from 10% up to 60%.
The unit is being led by Christian Senger, who previously led the charge on the upcoming line of ID vehicles. Those same vehicles were beset by software issues that have delayed the launch of the ID.3, the car on VW’s brand new MEB platform.
Software delays also caused VW headaches when it was launching the Mk8 Golf. Part of the reason is the sheer complexity of the software it takes to run modern cars. Whereas all of the Mk7 Golf’s computer programs required a million lines of code, the ID.3 requires ten million lines of code.
The temptation, therefore, to hire outside help from companies like Apple, Google, and others that are working on automotive software, is enormous. But it seems that the ID.3 has scared VW off buying software.
Senger told Autocar, though, that creating a unit to tackle these issues itself will have three advantages.
The first, says Senger, is manufacturing experience, which gives VW an advantage over “competitors outside the industry.” The second advantage is that if VW designs its own software, it owns it, which he says is the “only way to ensure longterm competitiveness.”
The third advantage is the Volkswagen Group’s scale. Not only will the cost of writing the software be amortized over many, many vehicles, the number of vehicles using it will lead to better software.
“Scale is everything in software, in both cost and learnings from data,” said Senger. “Software needs significant numbers of users to become powerful and efficient, and the number of cars we produce offers that.”
A Volkswagen operating system (VW.OS) and a Volkswagen Automotive Cloud will are two of the most important systems VW is working on. These will form the backbone of many infotainment systems and online services just like the MEB chassis will form the basis of many different vehicles.
Like the MEB platform, VW is also looking at licensing this operating system to other manufacturers. With Ford building an EV that’s based on the MEB platform, it could also use VW.OS to make its own infotainment system that looks totally different from the one in an ID.3.
Over the air updates are also an integral part of VW.OS’s design. Customers will be able to get the latest functions in their cars quickly, as long as their hardware can handle the demands of the new software. Senger, though, has promised that even if your car’s hardware can’t handle the latest software update, it will never become undriveable because of the hardware limitation.
Still, VW accepts that 40% of its software will have to be purchased in.
“Partnerships will be even more important, but the key is that we will control the partnerships in specific technologies and areas,” says Senger. “We will define the software standards and the road map.”
But with an operating system all its own, the need to develop separate software for each vehicle will be removed.
“We’re at the forefront and starting a forward, unique solution that software becomes its own product in the automotive industry.”
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