Volkswagen is on the road to the future – with smart software. This makes it possible to bring highly innovative functions on board the latest vehicles and opens up completely new possibilities. Software is becoming a new factor in competitive differentiation and value creation. Volkswagen considers software development to be a core competence of the brand. In the past, Volkswagen stood for the democratisation of mobility with global successes such as the Beetle and Golf: today, software development also forms part a crucial of the Volkswagen DNA.
Ralf Brandstätter, Chief Executive Officer of Volkswagen Passenger Cars, sees the topic of software as absolutely crucial. “The real gamechanger is digitalisation,” says Brandstätter. “Electrification, software-defined products, new business models and autonomous driving – these four major forces are driving future developments in the automotive industry. With our enhanced ACCELERATE strategy, we are now giving digitalisation at the brand an extra boost.”
Thomas Ulbrich, Member of the Brand Board of Management for Research & Development, says: “Software is the key to the future! Having our own software competence is of the highest priority for Volkswagen.” Klaus Zellmer, Member of the Brand Board of Management for Sales, Marketing and After Sales, explains: “Volkswagen combines the best of two worlds – safe, appealing hardware and intelligent software. We will exploit the potential of this fusion more than ever before through continuous over-the-air updates.”
Software changes everything. State-of-the-art software enables the most up-to-date interactive communication. It offers increased comfort, dynamics, sustainability and ultimately a better quality of life. Thanks to the extensive customisation options, software is also shaping the character of the new Volkswagen models. In addition, software acts as a gateway to new business models, which will be brought together under the umbrella brand Volkswagen We. Thomas Ulbrich: “Our customers can already find services here such as WeShare for rental of electric Volkswagen cars, for example in Berlin and Hamburg. Or WeCharge for simple charging and payment at more than 200,000 charging stations in Europe.”
Volkswagen is well ahead of other volume manufacturers with the launch of these data-based business models and is therefore already reaching a new customer group. Last but not least, software is also making it possible for Volkswagen to realise highly innovative technologies such as IQ.DRIVE Travel Assist for partly automated driving – available from the new Polo up to the Touareg – or the first augmented reality head-up display on board the ID. models. Systems of this kind make the new Volkswagen models more valuable, more comfortable and safer.
Breakthrough of electric mobility. Software has also provided the decisive impetus for Volkswagen to initiate the breakthrough of electric mobility. Thomas Ulbrich: “In recent years, my colleagues and I repeatedly said that we as the Volkswagen brand wanted to transform electric mobility from being a niche into a volume market. Today, in 2021, I am certain that no-one has any doubts that Volkswagen is delivering on this promise.” This development would not have been possible without the company having its own unique software. One thing is certain: the new technology highlights catapult mobility further into the 21st century and offer clear added value.
Software as a factor in differentiation and value creation
Software is a key factor when it comes to competitive differentiation in the automotive market of the 21st century – a way in which Volkswagen sets itself apart from other manufacturers. An intelligent and future-oriented software architecture is a major selling point for a car – and a factor that will become increasingly important in the light of continuing digitalisation and automation.
Volkswagen sees progressive software as an elementary factor in value creation, and it opens the door to new business models. Already today, customers can use services such as WeShare to rent electric Volkswagen models or WeCharge for simple charging and payment. In the future Business Model 2.0, the company plans to generate new revenues during the use phase of its cars – with charging and energy services, with software-based features that the customer can add as needed, and with automated driving.
App updates and features on demand in the MQB
Status quo. All those who drive a new Volkswagen benefit directly from the systematic interaction of the hardware and software. The Polo, Golf, Tiguan, Passat or Arteon are perfect examples of this – bestsellers based on the modular transverse matrix (MQB): Using the mobile network, the latest In-Car Apps can be installed and also additional functions (features on demand) activated via We Upgrade. In the new Golf – the most digitalised modular transverse matrix (MQB) model – it is possible to enable features such as Adaptive Cruise Control ACC, advanced main-beam control Light Assist, intuitive voice control or the integration of Amazon Alexa. Many customers will benefit from these new possibilities because 80 percent of all Group models are based on the MQB – one of the most successful vehicle platforms in the world.
Firmware updates made over-the-air in the MEB
Evolution of the operating system. Making use of the momentum from its MQB experiences, Volkswagen has developed the modular electric drive matrix (MEB) for the new zero-emission models of the ID. family. The ID.3, ID.4 and ID.4 GTX have already been launched in Europe. These models are prepared for a new evolutionary stage of over-the-air updates: In future the ID. models will receive updates for the control units, and thus also for the operating system, via mobile data transfer. This means that new software versions can be installed at any time so that the firmware (operating system) is always completely up-to-date. In addition, possible bugs will also be eliminated and functions enhanced – because software programming is and remains an evolutionary process.
The new end-to-end electronic architecture of the ID. models
Software plus hardware. The updates are installed directly onto the new high-performance computers (ICAS) in the ID. models; ICAS stands for In-Car Application Server. These computers form the core element of the new end-to-end electronic architecture E3 in the ID.3, ID.4 and ID.4 GTX; they perform functions that are otherwise distributed among a large number of control units.
The new electronic architecture is not just more powerful and intelligent, but also simplifies exchange of data and functions between the systems in the vehicle. For this reason, the new end-to-end electronic architecture in combination with the ID. software – the operating system – also makes possible a new evolutionary stage of over-the-air updates. These will allow owners of the ID. models to update the software of their cars when parked outside their front door, at work or at any other location with a good mobile network connection. Silke Bagschik, Head of Marketing & Sales, Product Line e-Mobility: “The firmware update is the ultimate over-the-air update. It's a case of updating the operating system online and thus also updating the control units for enhanced performance or new functions.”
Software will permit automated driving
Every level of automation. The new Volkswagen software and electronics architecture will enable the breakthrough of automated driving and thus a new level of convenience and safety in the medium term. Defined scenarios such as driving on motorways are gradually becoming increasingly automated. Volkswagen brings together the current and new assist systems for automated driving under the umbrella brand IQ. DRIVE; these are functions that can be activated by the driver. Conventional driving will therefore remain the starting scenario in personal transportation. Thanks to the current Travel Assist – available in the Polo (new model), ID.3, Golf, ID.4, Tiguan, Passat, Arteon and Touareg product lines – driving at level 2 with automated lateral and longitudinal guidance is already a reality in Volkswagen vehicles. The driver must continuously monitor the systems at this level.
In the medium term, Volkswagen will continuously increase the level of automation with future vehicle projects such as the Trinity, planned for 2026. Over the course of the years, the scale will range from level 3 (highly automated driving; the driver no longer has to monitor continuously but must be potentially able to intervene) up to level 4 (fully automated driving; no driver is needed in the specific application). In the long term, automated driving level 5 (from start to destination without a driver) will be implemented; Volkswagen provided a preview of this with the avant-garde Gran Turismo concept car, the ID.VIZZION. Volkswagen has already laid the digital foundation for this new age with its latest electronic and software architecture, and is one of the first volume manufacturers worldwide to do this.
Software project house paves the way into the future
New learning culture. The software is developed in a project house in the Volkswagen Development Centre. The teams there work in the same agile way as in a pure tech company. Their work is characterised by processes that are fully synchronised with the special challenges of software development. These processes take into account the fact that the cars of today and tomorrow incorporate far more closely integrated functions than was previously the case.
As a result, there are many more programmers working on these closely integrated functions. Their interaction takes place in a completely different way in the project house to in classic vehicle development. In the project house, the software development marathon is divided into countless small sprints. This accelerates and improves the integrated programming of the functions.
The fast, lean processes from the project house will in future also have a positive impact on other development areas and change the way in which new Volkswagen models are developed. Thomas Ulbrich: “With the project house we have improved the speed and quality of software development tremendously and have simultaneously reduced the complexity of the processes. As a logical consequence of this, there are flat hierarchies in the project house, and these go hand-in-hand with fast, function-oriented decision-making processes. This is a model that we will also transfer to other development areas.”