E-mobility, autonomous driving, connectivity – in nearly all major fields of future development, software plays a central role. Volkswagen has therefore been forging ahead with digital transformation for some time now and is gradually developing into a global mobility provider. At the same time, the brand is deepening its cooperation with suppliers that develop software for the automotive industry. The aim is clear: the vehicles of the ID. family are set to make use of the full potential of digitalization – from continuous contact with the internet to over-the-air updates and upgrades.
One of the companies working on the digitalization of the ID. is Elektrobit (EB). The globally active software provider is based in Erlangen, Germany, but has branch offices in ten countries, including the US, India, China and Japan. Some 2,900 employees are involved in the development of software for cars. “Our products are found everywhere in the vehicle where systems need to be operated and controlled intelligently and efficiently,” says EB’s Managing Director Alexander Kocher. This ranges from their rather simple use for power windows or windshield wipers to highly complex software programs for driver assistance systems, traffic sign detection, navigation and entertainment systems, as well as digital user interfaces and cyber security. The company boasts some impressive figures: software from Elektrobit runs in roughly 100 million cars and controls the operation of roughly a billion devices.
These figures and the company’s more than 30 years of experience in the field of software development proved compelling for Volkswagen: Elektrobit is among the partner companies that supply components for the Volkswagen ID. family. With the compact ID.1, the first model will start rolling off the line at the end of next year. Further models – ID. CROZZ2, ID. BUZZ3 and ID. VIZZION4 – will follow.
Suppliers meet high demands
“We’re moving into the critical phase now. In just over 12 months from now, a new era for Volkswagen will begin with the ID. – one comparable to the first Beetle or the first Golf,” says Thomas Ulbrich, Board Member for e-Mobility for the Volkswagen brand. Ralf Brandstätter, Board Member for Procurement, adds: “Volkswagen is proceeding full speed ahead with the electric offensive. This also involves working together with strong partners. The Volkswagen ID. contains technology and ideas from the most innovative companies in our industry.” Volkswagen sets high standards for its suppliers. Technical capability, the fulfillment of logistical criteria and quality performance as well as long-term delivery capability all play a major role.
Group CEO Herbert Diess recently met with some key partners in Wolfsburg. The CEOs and managing directors of roughly 30 suppliers, including Elektrobit’s boss Kocher, gathered in Wolfsburg for “MEB Supplier Day.” According to Kocher, “the ID. example shows that software is essential for the car of the future. Together with Volkswagen, we’re working on ensuring that our software makes the vehicles safer and more reliable while also enabling the convenient use of innovative cloud-based services.” And he’s not alone: in addition to Elektrobit, a whole range of other companies are working on the ID.’s networking capabilities.
The new IT architecture is a small revolution
The project is a massive challenge. With the ID. family, Volkswagen is also introducing a completely new IT vehicle architecture. The novelty is that for the first time, the vehicle dispenses with distributed control units with manufacturer-specific software, of which there are up to 70 in a vehicle today. Instead, the vehicle’s intelligence is concentrated in a few central computers running on the new automotive operating system “vw.OS.” The software is thus emancipated from the hardware, creating the prerequisite for continuous updates and upgrades throughout the vehicle’s life cycle.
Production of the ID. will begin in about a year. The software developers at Elektrobit are champing at the bit, as it were. With the ID., the fields of networking and digitalization are entering an era in which the expertise of Elektrobit is more sought-after than ever. As far as they’re concerned, the new era at Volkswagen can start now.
1,2,3,4 The vehicles are concept cars and not on sale.