Andreas Peters is a mathematician and Managing Director of Valtech Mobility, which became a central player of the digitalization strategy of the Volkswagen Group. A core topic is the upcoming cross-brand platform, which implicates some challenges for the future. An outlook:
The digital transformation of the automotive industry is putting the development of new car operating systems front and center. The idea is to replace as many built-in control devices as possible with a few powerful computers and simulate them using software functions.
These in-car computers are managed via a cloud-based connected vehicle platform and provided with software and data packets. This transforms the platform into the car’s central gateway to the outside world.
With this solution architecture, car manufacturers hope to secure the future for their cars in the digital age and in the process, create a backbone for the implementation of emerging mobility concepts.
For more than 20 years, Valtech has been advising OEMs on concepts, design, and implementation of connected car solutions. Valtech Mobility, a joint venture between the internet agency Valtech and the VW Group, was established in 2019. Its mission: focusing Valtech’s extensive experience into the development and global rollout of one of the most comprehensive connected vehicle platforms in the business.
The question we face today is: What is the job description of tomorrow for a connected vehicle platform in connection with a car’s operating system?
First and foremost, it has to provide a host of key functionalities that will lay the groundwork for a wide range online and mobility services.
Among them you will find, among other features, the ability to update on-board software over the air (OTA). The fact is, OTA was introduced by Tesla as early as 2012 – but is not yet an automotive industry standard by any means. However, other OEMs are catching up: Only recently, BMW updated its operating system for infotainment and navigation over the air in 500,000 of its vehicles.
Function on Demand (FoD) is another basic functionality. Its capability of remotely activating on-board functions also makes it a powerful enabler in the after sales and service area.
Simultaneously with the growing expansion of Mobility as a Service (MAAS) services, e.g. ride hailing or car sharing, the need for fleet functionalities within the platform is rising as well. This includes, among other functions, basic features such as CarKey by Apple, which is being implemented by BMW as we speak and allows locking and unlocking as well as starting cars via your iPhone. Beyond that, predictive maintenance scenarios and fleet algorithms can minimize waits, predict customer needs and optimize capacity utilization – thereby having a crucial impact on the profitability of fleets.
Providing vehicle data is another central task of the connected vehicle platform. Startups such as Otonomo or Caruso are just the first to offer interesting cross-OEM B2B market places. There are already a number of situations today where data-based applications could come in handy: where real time monitoring of individual car components for reasons of product liability and marketing approval is required, mandatory digital main inspections of vehicle assistance systems are necessary, scoring systems based on traffic flow for insurance premiums are implemented or product improvements based on user data are planned – something Tesla is doing through its Shadow Mode in the area of automated driving.
Today, OEMs are facing the fundamental question: when to develop the functionalities in-house or by partners and when to resort to industry solutions.
One of Tesla’s USPs is its vertical integration. Many of the essential developments in the area of software, chips, circuit boards or batteries – including charging management, are carried out in-house. Still, it is debatable if this will remain so in the future. The innovation pressure in the individual fields is tremendous. In the area of autonomous driving alone you have to measure up to companies such as Waymo or the recently forged collaboration between Mercedes-Benz and Nvidia and also with starts-ups such as Recogni.
Volvo Car is taking a different approach. Its models Polestar 2 and Volvo XC40 represent two cars where the Android Auto OS has been deeply integrated. It is true that Volvo Car had to yield some of its authority over infotainment and navigation, but in return can take full advantage of Google Maps, Google Assistant and the App Store. The future will tell if this is going to be a successful example of a sustainable, vertical integration between a car manufacturer and Google.
The VW Group is venturing down an interesting third path. The development of the two modular E-drive kits, PPE for premium and MEB for volume brands, is the result of its decision to introduce an on-board End2End electronics architecture called “E to the power of 3” with its corresponding operating system “vw.OS”. On the backend, this “vw.OS” is supported by the VW Automotive cloud as a new connected vehicle platform based on Microsoft technologies.
With this approach, VW is pursuing two goals at the same time. On the one hand, the expansion of a successful modular system into the field of e-mobility – and on the other, a significant increase in the Group’s own contributions as demonstrated with its in-house development of the vw.OS and the VW Automotive Cloud in collaboration with Microsoft and the help of Valtech-Mobility’s expertise.
Overall, the development in the field of connected vehicles remains extremely dynamic. Against the backdrop of the experience of having integrated approx. ten OEMs via a connected car platform and, in the process, rolled out more than fifty customer functions in diverse market and brand variants in over sixty countries with triple-digit numbers of SOPs, Valtech Mobility is confident to be well-positioned for the future and all the changes that might come. We are looking forward the challenge.