By Joseph White
DETROIT (Reuters) - Volkswagen’s software division, CARIAD, has emerged from a review ordered by VW's new chief executive with a plan to work toward a unified software architecture for future vehicles one jump at a time, according to CARIAD chief Dirk Hilgenberg.
“I call our program 'triple jump',” Hilgenberg told Reuters at the CES technology trade show in Las Vegas. “You do one jump after another.”
The next key step will be the launch of the Porsche Macan SUV in 2024, which will have 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 will use super-chips 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 software progress in March.
Delays and cost overruns at CARIAD were one of the factors behind the VW supervisory board’s decision last summer to oust Herbert Diess as CEO and replace him with Porsche chief Oliver Blume.
Sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters 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. One source said a 2028 start 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 controlling separate functions.
The future was shown with a schematic of an electric car ruled by one master “system on a chip” - powerful enough to run automated driving systems, stream video to the dashboard and transmit data about driving behavior, charging habits, battery life and other functions back to VW via the "Cloud".
Volkswagen's current status is in-between: Software now deployed allows its "ID" electric vehicles to be updated remotely, with a fix for what Hilgenberg called “teething problems”.
Blume ordered a review of CARIAD’s strategy last year. Hilgenberg said that rethink took six weeks of “intensive workshops ... sometimes emotional.”
CARIAD does not plan to cut staff, Hilgenberg said. But it will have a new focus on efficiency. For now, it will focus on delivering "Level 3" automated driving - on certain highways, 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)