Volkswagen is reducing its reliance on software partnerships and shifting gears to developing its own in-vehicle software. That shift starts on July 1, when the automaker’s newly formed internal organization Car.Software switches from the start-up phase to operational mode, according to an online keynote speech delivered Friday by Christian Senger, Car.Software’s CEO.
Car.Software does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s an independent business unit within the Volkswagen Group dedicated to “the development of car software and software for the digital ecosystems,” according to a company statement announcing the formation of the internal start-up in November last year.
According to Senger, VW’s current share of its cars’ software is less than 10%, with the rest coming from development partnerships with large IT groups, tier 1 providers and other third-party software. (This is actually quite common in the automotive industry.) By 2025, the automaker wants to increase that to a majority 60% share, which means building and developing its own software and platforms.
A larger hand in its car software will allow VW to exercise more control (and quality control) over the tech that runs its cars. We’re not just talking infotainment here; with the rise of software-controlled vehicle systems (such as drive-by-wire and shift-by-wire), fully electric cars, driver aid systems and, soon, autonomous vehicles, vehicle software is more important than ever.
“Volkswagen wants to retain control of the entire vehicle architecture — that includes the electronics,” Senger said. “We cannot give third parties complete access to data in our vehicles.” Volkswagen sees retaining software control as a key element in ensuring its long-term competitiveness and security.
A big part of VW Car.Software’s plan to retake the bits and bytes that make the wheels turn is the development of a shared VW.OS that will eventually serve as the unifying tech backbone for all VW Group vehicles. Powered by the Volkswagen Automotive Cloud, this connected software platform will bring enhanced over-the-air updates to VW’s vehicles, dashboard software and product downloads for drivers, and data collection on a massive scale for developers.
“The Automotive Cloud is technically ready to go. We are expanding its range of functions and preparing to connect the first vehicle models,” said Senger.
Still in the early days, the first wave of Audi– and Porsche-developed Premium Platform Electric coming online around 2022. Then follows a transitional period leading up to the new VW.OS rollout around 2025.will still use VW’s contemporary Modular Electric Propulsion Platform software with the
Friday’s announcement comes amid reports of numerous software bugs that caused delays to the summer rollout of the automaker’s upcoming electric ID 3 hatchback. In this light, Car.Software’s goals could be interpreted as VW’s response to lessons learned during the ID 3’s development. The automaker didn’t directly confirm that assumption during a Q&A following Senger’s keynote, however.
The shift from internal startup to fully operational division next month means the organization will see expansion of its budget, goals and staff. VW expects Car.Software to recruit and employ around 5,000 specialists globally by the end of 2020 — mostly in Europe, with about a third located in China and the rest spread between India, Israel and the US — and continue to grow from there.