Volkswagen has announced the electric cars coming soon from its new ID division will be always connected to what it calls the Automotive Cloud, which means the software in those cars can be constantly updated wirelessly.
Tesla pioneered the use of over-the-air (OTA) updates with the Model S. Until it burst on the scene, any reconfiguration of the software programmed into vehicles at the factory had to be done by technicians at the service departments of local dealers.
It has taken quite a while for other manufacturers to climb on board the OTA update bandwagon. For one thing, cars that are constantly updated don’t become obsolete as quickly as ordinary cars do. Selling cars is, of course, the name of the game for most manufacturers and obsolescence is a big part of keeping the sales engine turning.
Volkswagen executives met recently with the heads of the suppliers who will provide the components for the ID cars. Production is set to begin less than a year from now at the company’s Zwickau factory. VW head Herbert Diess says the company is planning to invest more than $50 billion in electric car production over the next decade. $11 billion of that will be dedicated to autonomous and connected car technology. After the suppliers meeting, the company released the following statement:
“With the fully electric, fully connected ID., Volkswagen will be bringing onto the roads a new generation of vehicles that will set new standards for digitalization and connectivity. The ID. will always be online and connected to the Internet via an Automotive Cloud. Updates and upgrades will continuously make the car better. Against this backdrop, Volkswagen is stepping up its cooperation with software companies and developers. One of these companies is Elektrobit (EB) from Erlangen.
“In the case of the ID., Volkswagen involved its top suppliers in design and development at a considerably earlier stage and more intensively. Ralf Brandstätter, Chief Operating Officer and member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen brand responsible for Procurement: “We have redefined our cooperation with suppliers. We say what we need and the suppliers tell us how they can produce it with the best possible quality levels as efficiently as possible. This means that we can rapidly incorporate the best innovations into the car. Customers benefit directly from this new type of cooperation.” Suppliers also appreciate this cooperation among equals.”
Not all the news from Wolfsburg is about electric cars, however. The company recently released a teaser sketch of its 8th generation Golf, scheduled to begin production in the summer of 2019. The Golf is to Volkswagen today what the original Beetle was to the company in the 60s — a high-volume sales leader. The Golf has been in production in one form or another for 43 years. As important as the ID-badged electric cars will be for the company’s future, the Gen 8 Golf will continue to be vital to the company’s bottom line today.
Some of the features that will define the ID vehicles will be incorporated into the new Golf, says Karlheinz Hell, Volkswagen’s head of small car operations. “The next Golf will take Volkswagen into the era of fully connected vehicles with extended autonomous driving functions. It will have more software onboard than ever before. It will always be online and its digital cockpit and assistance systems will be the benchmark in terms of connectivity and safety.”
While the drivetrain choices will be mostly the same as what the company has offered previously in the Golf, it is expected that a hybrid powertrain will be available for the first time, although whether it will be a plug-in hybrid or a conventional hybrid is unclear at this time.
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