VW’s CARIAD software chief promises progress one leap at a time

DETROIT, Jan 9 (Reuters) – Volkswagen’s software division, CARIAD, has emerged from a review ordered by VW’s new chief executive with a plan to work towards a unified software architecture for future vehicles one leap at a time, according to CARIAD chief Dirk Hilgenberg .

“I call our program the ‘triple jump,'” Hilgenberg told Reuters at the CES technology trade show in Las Vegas. “You make one jump after another.”

The next key step will be the launch of the Porsche Macan SUV in 2024, which will feature VW’s new premium software architecture.

Volkswagen’s ultimate goal is a “unified” software and electronics architecture for all VW Group vehicles. It will rely on Qualcomm “system on a chip” semiconductors in Europe and North America, and in China it will use superchips developed with Chinese partner Horizon Robotics.

“We are not allowed to pull data out of China,” Hilgenberg said. Volkswagen has promised investors an update on its software progress in March.

Delays and cost overruns at CARIAD were one of the factors behind VW’s supervisory board’s decision last summer to remove Herbert Diess as CEO and replace him with Porsche boss Oliver Blume.

Sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters that a new software platform intended to enable “Level 4” autonomous driving, which was due to be implemented across the fleet from 2026, will be pushed back to the end of the decade. A source said a start in 2028 was likely.

Hilgenberg declined to discuss specific dates. “Let’s deliver product,” he said.

He illustrated CARIAD’s challenge using a slide showing three diagrams representing a vehicle’s electronics.

VW’s old approach used 120 small computers that controlled separate functions.

The future was shown with a schematic of an electric car controlled by one main system on a chip – powerful enough to run automated driving systems, stream video to the dashboard and transmit data about driving behaviour, charging habits, battery life and other functions back to VW via the “Cloud”.

Volkswagen’s current status is somewhere in between: The software now being deployed allows its “ID” electric vehicle to be updated remotely, with a solution for what Hilgenberg called “bite problems.”

Blume commissioned a review of CARIAD’s strategy last year. Hilgenberg said rethinking took six weeks of “intensive workshops … sometimes emotional.”

CARIAD does not plan to cut staff, Hilgenberg said. But there will be a new focus on efficiency. For now, it will focus on delivering “Level 3” automated driving – on certain motorways, under certain conditions – in partnership with Bosch. Fully automated driving for consumers will come later.

Reporting by Joe White; Additional reporting by Victoria Waldersee and Jan Schwartz in Germany; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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