Viewed unemotionally, company cars are primarily a tool for earning money. The unemotional conclusion: The less work these tools create for fleet managers and the more comfortable and intuitive their handling for their users, that is their drivers, are, the better the overall outcome at the end of the day.
Interview with Knut Krösche
Achieving this in the 21st century is primarily driven by data analyses and development of intelligent software. The independent company CARIAD looks after both of these aspects in the Volkswagen Group. We met for an interview with Knut Krösche, Head of Digital Business & Mobility Services.
Mr Krösche, you have been responsible for almost a year now for Digital Business & Mobility Services in the Group’s new software development company CARIAD. What exactly do you develop there?
Essentially it involves leveraging synergies in the area of digitalisation across the brands – and thereby improving the customer experience. Specifically this means that we collect anonymised data from Group vehicles – obviously in compliance with statutory requirements –, evaluate this data, acquire new knowledge and develop new services or improved products on this basis.
What are the main topics in this regard in relation to fleets?
We want to help fleet managers to organise their fleets more effectively by providing them with comprehensive data – without first having to retrofit the vehicles for this purpose with telematic systems. In parallel, we are naturally also thinking about the users of company cars, who are less interested in TCO, better maintenance etc. and more focused on ultimate comfort and convenience of use.
First of all, let us talk about the target group for fleet managers: Which specific application scenarios do you envisage to make their work easier?
A critical point in this respect is the topic of predictive maintenance. Because the fact is: A stationary vehicle does not “earn” any money for the company. So, we are using data from the car – in simple terms – to provide information such as: “If the vehicle continues to be used in this way, then it will need to be serviced at this point.” The fleet manager can then bring the company car in good time to the dealership and not run the risk of a breakdown. The principal attraction here is that the system is being used proactively and not only – as is familiar from the classic warning lamp – when the relevant event occurs. These ideas are not new per se, but current and future vehicle generations provide us with the technical means to do all of this cleanly, reliably and, above all, ex works.
Keyword – future vehicle generations: Interest in electric mobility is also growing significantly in the area of fleets. Which benefits can be gained from data analyses for electrified fleets in particular?
Electric mobility, in particular, provides many promising starting points due to the special vehicle architecture and related topics like charging management. Let me give you an example: A charge level of between 20 and 80 per cent is ideal for the battery of an electric vehicle. If the data shows that a company vehicle is always charged to 100 per cent, this information can be passed on to the fleet manager along with such details as how incorrect charging behaviour can impact the condition of the energy storage unit. The fleet manager can then – and this brings us back to the topic of responding proactively – react early on, inform the driver and therefore ensure the maximum availability of the fleet. It must of course be stressed here that data security and data protection are an absolute priority at CARIAD and throughout the entire Volkswagen Group. In other words, we only evaluate data when we have approval to do so from the customer.
You spoke at the start about added value for company car users. What do you have in the pipeline in this respect at CARIAD?
One product that we will roll out gradually in the Group brands from the end of 2021 is the In Car Office. Anyone who has ever worked in the field knows that the mobile phone is never more than a glance away during a trip. When is my next meeting? Which address do I need to drive to? How can I join in by phone? Where can I find the dial-in or link etc. Our In Car Office integrates the driver’s calendar in the vehicle HMI, advises of the relevant appointments on the display, allows simple, fast and safe participation and is connected to the navigation system’s route planner. Now that’s real added value.
Another example from the area of electric mobility: If companies intend to electrify their fleets, acceptance on the part of employees is one of the most important requirements. And this acceptance depends to a large extent, in turn, on how conveniently the electric vehicles can be used and especially charged. Our work therefore focuses among other things on improving POI management. For example, we have noticed that the addresses of public charging stations in the navigation system do not always correspond precisely to their actual locations. If the navigation system shows a charging station at the next supermarket, for example, the station may actually be located behind the building and may not be visible from the road. This is not exactly good customer experience. We therefore enable the systems to actually show the exact position of the charging station. In case of doubt, this saves field staff a lot of time. And maybe there is no need to stop at the supermarket charging station anyway if there is a charging point next to a restaurant three kilometres away. We will also provide this type of information as part of the optimised POI management. Incidentally, company car drivers will in the future be able to decide the remaining range they want on arriving at their destination before they set out on their journey. In this way they can avoid the software sending them first to the charging station just before they arrive.
And the charging process itself? To what extent is this simplified by the work CARIAD does?
At present we are looking closely at optimised charging station management. Company car users will soon be able to tell from the navigation system whether a charging station is occupied – and can then make a reservation for this station if needed. The next major milestone is in 2022 with the introduction of Plug&Charge. This technology allows electricity to be purchased without a charging card or app because the vehicle and charging station communicate with each other when the connection is made and exchange the required information. Technically this is actually extremely complicated – but we have made it our mission to make this as simple as possible for the customer.
Who is CARIAD?
CARIAD is an independent automotive software company in the Volkswagen Group that bundles together software competencies and further expands them. Some 4,500 engineers and developers are currently working in CARIAD on building a unified software and technology platform for all brands of the Volkswagen Group, which contains a common operating system, a unified E/E architecture and an automotive cloud. In addition, the company is developing digital functions for the vehicle, including driver assist systems, a standardised infotainment platform, software functions for linking drive trains, running gear and charging technology as well as new ecosystems and digital business models in and around the vehicle.
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