"The two inventions of the century, the car and the computer, are gradually converging. We need to design future mobility to be even more intelligent and networked." Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen AG, points out that the automotive industry found itself in the midst of historical turning point at the beginning of the 21st century. The car and the computer were merging. Volkswagen, Europe's most successful car brand, has been instrumental in driving this development. That is because the car – which operates intuitively, is networked systematically, reacts intelligently and offers significantly greater convenience – gives new innovative impetus to mobile life, making it more communicative, safer and fascinating. This is why Volkswagen is demonstrating – with an entire fleet of vehicles at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (CES; January 6 – 9) – just how much the car and computer are already becoming intertwined today and will continue to grow together in the future. The main focus here is on four aspects. First, computer-driven drive systems. Second, app and smartphone integration. Third, intuitive vehicle operation. Fourth, autonomous and semi-autonomous driving.
First – computer-controlled drive systems. Electric mobility is coming into its own. Pure electric cars and plug-in hybrid vehicles are continually increasing their presence. The high production volume models have now arrived, and Volkswagen is setting the pace with best-sellers like the Golf. Driven exclusively by electric motors (as in the e-Golf), or by an alliance of a high-tech gasoline engine and electric motor (as in the Golf GTE plug-in hybrid). The e-Golf and Golf GTE are the protagonists of a new mobility. These cars would be inconceivable without on-board electronics with computers that control such functions as battery charging and, in the case of the hybrid models, switching between the different drive sources. At CES, Volkswagen is showing, among other things, how electric cars will be able to automatically dock to inductive charging stations and output signals that indicate the battery charge state using the vehicle's exterior lights. Everything computer-driven, of course.
Second – app and smartphone integration. It has now been eight years, to the month, since Apple introduced its first generation iPhone in San Francisco. Competitors followed, and the rest is history. The fact is that smartphones have irreversibly changed the way we communicate and our everyday lives. It has long been normal practice to have phones automatically connected to a car's hands-free telephone system via Bluetooth and to have the smartphones stream their media libraries into car infotainment and sound systems. But now Volkswagen is taking a significant step forward. Last year, the second generation "modular infotainment platform" (MIB II) was introduced. Along with the new radio and radio-navigation systems, MirrorLink™ was also made available for the first time; it is used to integrate the apps and operating layout of numerous Android smartphones into cars (including Samsung, HTC, LG and Sony). Later this year, the MIB II will be making its debut in the USA. At the same time as MirrorLink™ is introduced, two other interfaces will also be launched under the App Connect label: CarPlay (Apple) and Auto Android (Google). This will result in app integration for the key operating systems. App Connect will significantly expand the range of today's Volkswagen online services. Just as it launches in the USA, CarPlay and Auto Android will also be launched by Volkswagen on the European market.
Third – intuitive operation. In the future, the mobile computer, i.e. the car, will not only merge with the mobile world; it will also integrate people into its operating concept more ideally than ever. Here, Volkswagen is following a consistent strategy of implementing user operation by touchscreen. Today, and in the future, the car will be adapted more than ever to people by recognizing their movements – via control based on proximity sensors and gesture recognition. Today, the latest infotainment systems by Volkswagen can already detect the approach of a hand with proximity sensors. Thanks to proximity sensors, the display automatically switches over from a purely informative level to a more varied menu with optimally sized controls. In the next revolutionary step – which Volkswagen is presenting in the Golf R Touch concept vehicle at the 2015 CES – the infotainment unit will precisely detect hand gestures via camera and understand them. Gesture control will make it possible to control, in real space, displays and controls in virtual space without having to touch a touchscreen. This benefits convenience and safety, because it further reduces driver distractions while operating controls. At this point, it is clear that the car and computer can no longer be viewed as separate from one another. The car and computer are one.
- Fourth – autonomous and semi-autonomous driving. Clearly, cars of the future will need to be able to drive certain route segments autonomously if necessary. Either fully autonomously or semi-autonomously, and this will be introduced step by step. Even today, Park Assist by Volkswagen enables semi-automated parking and exiting from parking spaces. The car executes the entire steering process for the parking maneuver fully independently. At CES, Volkswagen is now presenting another evolutionary stage of Park Assist: Trained Parking. Here, the car scans a frequently driven path to a parking space via camera, and from that point on it executes the path semi-automatically by computer control. In another evolutionary stage, it will be possible to have the car parked without the driver even needing to be present in the vehicle. The driver would maintain control over the car via smartphone.
Volkswagen highlights at the 2015 CES:
Golf R Touch
Volkswagen is equipping its show car in Las Vegas with the controls of tomorrow. The high-performance of its computers, the brilliance of today's displays and the recognition of precise human gestures are merging into a new interface generation here. In the Golf R Touch concept vehicle, Volkswagen is presenting, for the first time, an infotainment system that incorporates gesture control as a consistent next development step that is based on current thinking in the area of intuitive control. All it takes is a hand movement in the space in front of the infotainment display of the Golf to make human and machine interact as one. Volkswagen is thereby extending touchscreen operation into a third dimension.
- The development team for the Golf R Touch pursued the goal of developing an interior and infotainment concept that would fulfill seemingly contradictory requirements. Despite the continually growing complexity and numbers of functions, this concept was intended to reduce driver distractions while attaining a maximum of personalization and intuitive operation in the car. A vehicle was created in which nearly all controls are implemented via touchscreens and sensor switches. Therefore, the Golf R Touch is equipped with three displays: the 12.8-inch high-resolution touchscreen of the infotainment system, a Control Center (8.0-inch with touch feedback) arranged beneath it to control vehicle, climate control and media functions as well as an Active Info Display (digitalized instruments, 12.3-inch). The layouts of the central touch screen and the Active Info Display can be customized rapidly, just as on a smartphone or tablet home screen today. The same is true of the entire color staging in the interior.
At the 2015 CES in Las Vegas, Volkswagen is showing maximum networking of the car of today in the form of the Connected Golf. This e-Golf, which is equipped with the latest generation (MIB II) infotainment system, incorporates an enormous range of apps, smartphones and tablets via its progressive interface management system. The umbrella brand for all online-based functionality is Volkswagen Car-Net; its various features and applications are organized into several clusters. In the USA, for example, they are Travel Link, e-Remote, Safe & Secure and from now on App Connect. All of these clusters are implemented in the Connected Golf. A look at today's App Connect is particularly exciting. As noted above, Volkswagen is one of the first carmakers to integrate the vast majority of smartphone operating systems in models like the Golf based on App Connect. The three underlying software interfaces of App Connect are Mirror Link™, Android Auto (Google) and CarPlay (Apple). Via these interfaces, the driver and passengers in the car are able to use the many different apps of their smartphones over the infotainment system.
- Beyond the applications of Volkswagen Car-Net, the Connected Golf is equipped with many other innovations. For example, Media Control enables the integration of tablets and smartwatches into the infotainment system. Media Control uses a special app that creates a rear seat entertainment system of a new era. Regular Routes is the name of a function by which the navigation system automatically detects – i.e. without needing to be activated by the driver – traffic disturbances on the daily commute to work, for instance, and it autonomously suggests an available alternative route. Parking Guide is another ingenious navigation feature. It embodies a technology that finds parking sites that have a high probability of available parking spaces.
e-Golf Intelligent Charge
- This year, Volkswagen launched one of the world's first high production volume electric cars on the American market in the form of the e-Golf – a zero-emission vehicle with a range of up to 83 miles, optimal all-round characteristics and high-tech equipment. In Las Vegas, Volkswagen is now presenting Intelligent Charge in the e-Golf; it illustrates how electric cars will be used even more conveniently in the future. A key theme here: over the mid-term it will be possible to offer inductive charging as an alternative to cable-based charging. In this type of charging, the car is parked over a charging plate. In the future, it will be possible to see in just seconds whether the battery is still being charged, or whether it is already fully charged by looking at the vehicle's exterior lights. The e-Station Guide will not only assist the electric car drivers in finding a desired charging station. They will also be informed about their location and charging equipment as well as payment options. As an additional function, the Digital Key – an electronic vehicle key – is implemented in this Golf. This feature lets third parties use a smartphone or smartwatch to temporarily and safely gain access to the vehicle and to start or stop the engine.
e-Golf Perfect Parking
- Park Assist from Volkswagen automatically guides the car into parallel and perpendicular parking spaces (in reverse) and can also automatically exit parallel parking spaces. First Volkswagen models will also be able to automatically park into perpendicular parking spaces in a forward direction. When parking or exiting a parking space, the system assists the driver by autonomously making optimal movements of the steering wheel to stay on the ideal line. At CES, Volkswagen is now introducing an advanced evolutionary stage of Park Assist known as Trained Parking. Here the car (an e-Golf) uses a camera – mounted in the base of the rear-view mirror – to scan a frequently used path into a parking space, and from then on the parking process is executed semi-automatically and highly precisely by sensors and computer. In the future, it will of course also be possible to semi-automatically park above a station for inductive charging. In another evolutionary stage, plans call for the driver no longer needing to stay in the car during parking. The driver would just monitor the operation of parking or exiting a parking space with a smartphone as a "remote control" device.