What does a Functionality Developer at Volkswagen do? Anna Resing from Carmeq knows: she develops algorithms, analyzes simulations, and tests software for driver assistance systems.
“A car, is a car, is a car?” is written on a notice board, for an in-house innovation competition, hanging on a wall at the headquarters of the software company Carmeq, in Berlin. The question indicates that the vehicle is not always what it appears to be. For example, cars that communicate with each other in a network or perform driver tasks have long since ceased to being utopian dreams. With over 800 employees, from 29 nations, spread across its three locations in Ingolstadt, Wolfsburg and Berlin, the company is the driving force behind such visions of the future and will become part of Volkswagen Group’s new Car.Software organization, as a wholly owned subsidiary as of 01.01.2020. In doing so, the company will focus all its activities specifically on their platforms, in particular the software platform as the lead product.
Functionality Developers such as Anna Resing play an important role in this. In her office, located in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin, the 27-year-old and a team of engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists and designers work every day on complex algorithms, analyzing simulations and testing car functions. “We at Carmeq develop software in areas of e-mobility, autonomous driving and connected cars,” says Resing.
Her job as a Functionality Developer is to think about what the customer could use in the vehicle, how she develops these functions, what requirements she places on certain systems, and how she puts them on the road. The goal is to make tomorrow’s mobility safer and more comfortable for the vehicle’s occupants.
The focus here is on driver assistance systems that make semi-automated driving possible in certain situations and defined applications under the permanent supervision of the driver – and that are assigned to the so-called level 2 automation of autonomous driving. Examples of further developments she is currently working on are Travel Assist and Lane Assist.
“In my team, we take care of functions related to steering. Travel Assist keeps the vehicle in the middle of the lane. Lane Assist is activated when the vehicle leaves the marked lane, and then correspondingly it leads the vehicle back.” The priority of her work is to get the driver to their destination safely, in regular traffic.
In its new “Car.Software” organization, Volkswagen Group intends to pool more than 5,000 digital experts with Group responsibility for software in the vehicle by 2025. The company plans to develop significantly more software in the vehicle and for vehicle-related services itself, and to increase its own share from less than 10 percent today to at least 60 percent by 2025.
In the future, there will be a uniformed Group-wide software platform with all basic functionalities: in five areas. These include development work on a standardized vehicle operating system “vw.os” for all Group vehicles and its connection to the Volkswagen Automotive Cloud, a standardized infotainment platform, all assistance systems through to highly automated driving and parking in end-customer vehicles, software functions for connecting drive, chassis and charging technology as well as ecosystems for all mobility services and digital business models of the brands.
Resing and her team therefore analyze the functionality of the systems during the development of new algorithms using a computer simulation program. The challenge here is to predict unforeseen traffic situations such as cyclists or suddenly arriving cars and changing weather conditions. But the influence of existing integrated system solutions also poses a problem. However, it is crucial for Functionality Developers such as Resing to understand all the interrelationships of the software algorithms, keep track of them and react accordingly. Successful teamwork is therefore enormously important for her work, explains the Bonn native.
That's why Resing and her team regularly sit together with the people responsible for driving assistance systems at the Volkswagen brand and, in future, the Car.Software organization. The aim is to coordinate further action. The company is also involved in projects with the Volkswagen brands Audi and Porsche. Carmeq employees also work closely with Volkswagen Group Research in the pre-development of assistance systems.
Speaking of teamwork: Because she is responsible for lane planning and thus for determining the lane, Resing also needs the information from her colleagues’ many tests. She and the team not only test the software together on the basis of simulations, but also during test drives in regular road traffic. Using data received by them and their colleagues via cameras, radars and sensors in the test vehicle, they can evaluate and interpret certain situations such as the behavior of the driver. Through systematic testing, errors can be discovered and, back at the desk, rectified together. Especially since Resing and her team do not only develop the systems for different vehicle types. When programming the software, they also have to take system limits into account.
The law stipulates, for example, that when changing lanes, the vehicle may only cross the markings and change lanes after three to five seconds. Resing accordingly programs algorithms that keep an eye on these situations and trains the vehicle accordingly. “In the end, it’s all about the driver being able to rely fully on the systems,” says Resing. The driver assistance systems warn the driver as soon as the system is overloaded with the driving task and the driver has to take over again. Or, as Resing puts it, as she looks at the high-tech test vehicle in front of the entrance to her office building: “The sensors, radars and cameras in the vehicle are our eyes that perceive the environment and provide us with information and data. As humans, we are the brains that process and interpret this data and ultimately decide how the vehicle should behave in road traffic conditions.”
Resing therefore finds it most exciting to test the newly integrated functions in the car itself. This makes her task a constant “learning by doing” process, as she already knows from her mathematics studies at the TU Berlin. Just as she had to prove and store things in mathematics and find regularities on a very abstract-theoretical level, as a Functionality Developer she now has to discover regularities that serve the vehicle as an example to act similarly in certain situations.
For the future, Resing wants autonomous driving to change driving behavior in general. “At some point, our vehicles may be driving around while we work. And if we sit in the car, we will be able to do things that we tend to do whilst travelling by train today.”
Resing looks out over the Spree river that flows past the Carmeq building. “At the level of automation I'm working on, drivers still have to be at the wheel and be able to intervene in what’s going on. But to make the concept of fully automated driving a reality, where the driver can give up responsibility and systems completely take over the driving task for them – this dream will continue to accompany me.” This is my dream. She sees the founding of the Car.Software organization as an opportunity to work together more closely across the Group and across brands. “Personally, I hope that the Car.Software organization will enable us to develop software more quickly – and thus shape the topics of the future as well.”
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