As cars get more and more complex (not mentioning the rest of the equipment therein which is more digital than mechanical these days), the demand for a certain and unified base system is undeniable. The German Volkswagen Group now takes the approach to simplify the software used in the cars of the company based in Wolfsburg, Germany to create an Android-based system referred to as „VW-OS“.
This OS is told to be a platform solution which will be used in all future models of all twelve brands belonging to the Volkswagen-group. While focusing on the main capabilities to get the car running, every non-critical process or solution is planned to be integrated in a single app. Due handle these enormous tasks, VW is creating an agile software-unit which will be able to handle at least 60 percent of each software-related task on its own until 2025.
At the moment, just ten percent are created on behalf of Volkswagen, the rest is is purchased from external subcontractors. Volkswagen is therefore assuming that there is a need to extend the software-division up to 10.000 developers. Today, just 500 employees are dealing with this task but shall be the core of the future software team, estimating a growth up to 2000 developers by 2020. To achieve this, Volkswagen will not only look after qualified employees on the free market but is also planning to take over companies fitting in this scheme.
The Status Quo is beyond the pale
While talking to Ars Technica, Christian Senger, Member of Volkswagen’s ressort „Digital Car and Services“ explained the new strategy. „It began very slowly. More and more elements were equipped with software-based management options developed by the single vendors. In modern cars we have implemented 70 different modules with software of about 200 different vendors, making it difficult to deliver a certain grade of compatibility.“ Senger said.
„There are models that can’t be started when the Infotainment-system is not working. Or there are models were the GPS is also responsible for the car’s system time so it won’t start when there is no GPS-signal. But whatever we do, it has impact on everything“ Senger complains and mentions the VW-OS and its integration in an online service named „Automotive Cloud“ as a stable base for new cars from the Volkswagen-group.
VW-OS and Automotive Cloud as a base for the future
VW-OS shall provide all vital functions of tomorrow’s cars in a consistent way while all other resources like the interface design could be provided by external apps. Senger is here reaching for the software-part that Volkswagen has already achieved on the hardware-side as well: Unified electronic devices to have a better scalability by simultaneously reducing the costs and securing the safety of the whole car by standardized components. So far, Volkswagen did manage this by using just three hardware platforms.
Android will be the foundation
Turning to the software-side, Volkswagen is currently working with eight different digital architectures. Senger is naming Android’s ways of distribution as an example here: No matter which device you have, no matter if it’s a cheap entry model or a so-called „flagship“, Android is the common base - and that’s exactly how VW-OS should work. Senger goes even that far that he can imagine to use Android as the coupler between human and machine so that the user will have access to the Android-ecosystem while Volkswagen has the ability to develop and distribute their applications to the broad mass using Android-devices.
Cutting off the past - so long, CAN-bus?
To integrate the system within the cars, Volkswagen is also planning to drop the masses of single systems located at the CAN-bus while, simultaneously, connect less modules directly via ethernet. This scenario already works on the new VW ID.3 by the way. VW-OS will be a fully-connected system, being a component of the Automotive Cloud. All future updates and other communication tasks may be distributed and orchestrated by using this new, homogenous way for cars from all twelve vendors belonging to the Volkswagen Group.