The Tesla Model S came to market nearly a decade ago, in mid 2012. The vehicle was a shock to the system in a number of ways. As people said back then and still do today, it was sort of like a big computer on wheels. Part of that was the huge touchscreen, part was what was going on inside the veins and organs of the car, and some of it was the “simple” but transformative over-the-air software updates (or “firmware updates” if we want to be a little more accurate, but let’s just stick with the normal-human lingo).
Yes, this article is about Volkswagen Group, and I considered skipping that context, but I think it’s important to include for a few reasons. For one, the fact that Volkswagen Group is going to start using over-the-air software updates closes an important gap between it and Tesla for many drivers. We have done years of EV driver surveys and reports, and they have consistently shown that customers highly regard over-the-air software updates and many actually require them in any vehicle they are going to buy. Well, now, those customers have more options to choose from.
Volkswagen Group has announced that the whole ID. family can now benefit from over-the-air (OTA) software updates. Furthermore, even more importantly, the company says that it is a “milestone on the path to becoming a software-oriented mobility provider.” Yes, Volkswagen is still focused on becoming a software leader.
Not shy to brag (especially in a press release), the German automaker also notes that “Volkswagen brand becomes the first high-volume manufacturer to regularly update software in customer cars via mobile data transfer.” While the company might not have said this a few years ago, it is now also pointing out that OTA software updates help cars to retain their value better — good for buyers of its vehicles.
Also, again, Volkswagen’s vision is much bigger: “Software updates lay the foundations for new business models.” Yes, much can be built on top of the ability to update, improve, and add all manner of things into a car that was already sold to a customer via simple (or “simple”) software updates. What Volkswagen has in its vision in this regard, we’ll have to wait to see, but I certainly think often of infotainment upgrades and better semi-autonomous driving tech.
As far as regularity of updates, “We are creating a completely new, digital customer experience with new functions and greater comfort every twelve weeks,” Volkswagen CEO Ralf Brandstätter. So, it looks like we can look forward to a lot of CleanTechnica articles about Volkswagen software updates just as we write them about Tesla OTA software updates.
“Volkswagen is moving up a gear when it comes to digitalisation. … This is an important milestone in the implementation of our ACCELERATE strategy, which is preparing Volkswagen for the connected, digital mobility of the future,” Brandstätter adds.
Not only does this news come with general statements, but it also comes with specific updates that have rolled out to the ID.3 and ID.4, two top sellers in Europe. Improvements include:
- enhanced ID. Light functionalities,
- optimised surroundings recognition and dynamic main beam control,
- improved operability and design modifications for the infotainment system,
- performance and stability improvements.
Want to get into the organizational structure that’s making this happen? “The driving force behind the digitalisation of the brand is the close cooperation between ID. Digital and CARIAD, the Volkswagen Group’s car software organisation,” Volkswagen notes. “This collaboration makes for a wealth of software expertise. The brand benefits from the company’s clout, whilst at the same time using the speed of the agile software company CARIAD.”
Volkswagen concludes: “In the future, customers will no longer need to decide on functions for their car when purchasing the car – or which configuration will make for a higher resale value. This is because the hardware will be standardised to a great extent. In the future, additional functions and innovative technology can be added later via software updates.” That’s some interesting phrasing and big claims. The future is certainly more and more based on software, but I think it will take a while (at least) before hardware is standardise. What say you?
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