Volkswagen speeds its digital transformation, launches e-mobility carsharing
Volkswagen announced that it is speeding up the development of its own ecosystem, citing the automobile's continued evolution into a central hub in the Internet of Things (IoT).
“Volkswagens will increasingly become digital devices on wheels,” said Jürgen Stackmann, Volkswagen brand Board Member for Sales. “Our customers will become part of an ecosystem that we have named ‘We.’ This system complements the Volkswagen experience on wheels and enables customer to take their world into their vehicle.” Stackmann added that the brand hoped open interfaces would also encourage third parties to participate in creating a strong community by contributing their own software.
Michael Jost, Chief Strategy Officer of the Volkswagen brand and head of Group Strategy Product, emphasized that software and the associated services would make a significant contribution to differentiation in the automobile industry in the future. According to Jost, “to deal with this development, we need to reinvent the automobile in some ways.”
That includes a redesigned, much simpler vehicle IT architecture, which will premiere in the I.D. family of electric models from 2020. This IT architecture dispenses with a large number of separate control units that run on manufacturer-specific software—today, there are as many as 70 such units in a vehicle. Instead, vehicle intelligence will be concentrated in just a few computers with a unified programming language. In the future, the software will come from one source—the customer will experience services based on the “vw.OS” automotive operating system. As Jost explained, “separating the hardware from the software lays the groundwork for continuous updates and upgrades.” Furthermore, this means climbing to the next level on the road to autonomous driving.
Because of this, Volkswagen expects 2020 to be a turning point for brand. The company says that while some 1.5 million vehicles with no online access can today connect with the Internet using the “Volkswagen Connect” retrofit solution, 2020 is the year when Volkswagen says it will begin connecting its entire fleet. Each year, over five million new vehicles will then become part of the IoT.
The backbone of the ecosystem will be a Group-wide, primarily cloud-based platform, the “One Digital Platform” (ODP). This platform is mainly based on cloud-technology and connects the car, the customer, and the services. The ODP is designed to ensure the connection with the IT architecture comprising Volkswagen services or those of external partners integrated with the Volkswagen ecosystem.
“Volkswagen is spearheading the development of the OPD in collaboration with the Group brands. And we are seeking additional external support. We will soon be announcing cooperation projects and partnerships,” Christoph Hartung, Head of Digital & New Business / Mobility Services at the Volkswagen brand, said.
By 2025, Volkswagen says it intends to play a leading role in the new automobile industry as well as set up innovative mobility solutions and become the world market leader in e-mobility. The company's focus is on the evolution from an automaker to a mobility service provider with a connected fleet.
In line with this, Volkswagen announced its plans to launch its all-electric car sharing offering in selected major cities under the “We Share” sub-brand. The first fleet of vehicles will be rolled out in Berlin and will comprise 1500 e-Golf when the service begins operating in the second quarter of 2019. An additional 500 e-up! will follow later. These vehicles will gradually be replaced by the first models from the new Volkswagen I.D. family from 2020.
“We Share” is the first service in the new ecosystem “Volkswagen We” aimed at non-owners, the goal being to draw attention to the benefits of e-mobility and stimulate interest in the technology with the high-visibility fleet of 2000 “We Share” vehicles.
“We Share” takes to the road with what is known as free-floating carsharing, ensuring the spontaneous availability of electric vehicles for customers at all times. At a later stage, “We Share” will be adding smaller vehicles as micromobility solutions to its fleet of electric cars.
Philipp Reth, CEO of the Volkswagen subsidiary UMI Urban Mobility International, said, “The prospects for vehicle-on-demand services are very good. The most conservative forecasts for Europe predict annual growth of 15%. We will continue to develop this market and make this form of mobility accessible to an even broader user group.”
Following the launch in Berlin, “We Share” is initially scheduled to roll out in further major cities in Germany. Parallel plans call for expanding into core European markets and selected cities in North America from 2020. The primary focus will be on cities with a population of over one million.