Modern vehicles are becoming ever more digital and intelligent. In addition, all systems and functions have to be networked, so software is playing an increasingly important role. Volkswagen board member Frank Welsch explains how this is changing the work the developers do.
When Frank Welsch talks about the development of a new car, the member of the Volkswagen brand’s Board of Management makes a comparison: “As recently as ten years ago, the software in a new car consisted of 10 million lines of code. In the meantime, that number has grown to 100 million.” That’s a ten-fold increase in just one generation of cars. The figures show that, more than ever before, modern cars are characterized by software. “The way in which we bring new models to series production readiness has been fundamentally changed as a result,” says Welsch.
The arguably biggest challenge for the developers is the car’s internal and external network. The reason: all of a vehicle’s systems have to exchange data on a constant basis to ensure optimal functions. To the specialists this means that, whereas they used to be able to develop individual functions independently, they now have to take many interdependencies into consideration from the outset.
Volkswagen has adjusted to the new challenges with flexible ways of working, reports Welsch. Today, developers, production planners, quality assurance engineers and suppliers work much more closely together in order to test the interactions of a car’s components as early as possible. Any weaknesses that are discovered are worked on and resolved by developers systematically through a so-called Ticket Management System until the production run is ready to start. “We don’t make any compromises with regard to our demands on quality,” Frank Welsch emphasizes.
High speed – intense effort
In 2018 alone, Volkswagen brand shouldered 22 car production starts– this year the product offensive will continue at high speed and with a corresponding amount of development work. In order to handle the high work volume, the company employs more than 11,000 technicians and engineers in research and development at the headquarters in Wolfsburg alone. Additional experts working at locations around the world and for suppliers are also involved.
One of the special tasks being worked on this year is the world premiere of the eighth generation of the Golf. “This car is the heart of our brand,” says Welsch. That’s why the development is also something extra special. Just a few months before start of production, the model is right on schedule: the final stage of development, in which all functions are being tested repeatedly under real-life road conditions.
With the new Golf as well, the particular challenge lies in the interaction between the functions. One example is the digital key: customers can use this function in the future to unlock their cars and start up the engine with their smartphones as well as to assign digital keys to family members via an app. The digital key system also enables access to a number of functions by way of the smartphone. The challenge for developers: they have to ensure that the data exchange between all the systems always works smoothly.
As was already the case with its predecessors, the new Golf will again set the standard for its class, especially in regard to connectivity and digital functions. Development board member Welsch again makes a comparison to illustrate the extent of the change: “The infotainment system in the new Golf alone consists of more than 10 million lines of code. That would have been sufficient for an entire car just a few years ago.”
The Volkswagen Golf has set the standard for its class in every generation to date. Key focuses:
- Golf 1 (1974): Suitability for daily use
- Golf 2 (1983): Comfort
- Golf 3 (1991): Safety
- Golf 4 (1998): Design
- Golf 5 (2003): Driving dynamics
- Golf 6 (2008): Value
- Golf 7 (2012): Driver assistance
- Golf 8 (2019): Connectivity