The cars of the future will be fully connected: engineers will work more and more closely with software developers in order to develop them.
In Hall 90b, in the heart of Technical Development in the Wolfsburg plant, psychologist Marie Puhle is investigating how the car of the future can be controlled with a small team of designers, engineers and software developers. Driving is one of the key task since the transition from traditional steering wheel-based control to autonomous driving commands will be a long process. “We will not suddenly change the mode of operation”, explains Marie Puhle. Via a simulator which creates a virtual reality environment for the driver, she and her team carefully check that every innovation can be managed in an easy and intuitive manner so that they can be implemented in production.
Innovation is here, but you cannot see it
Many of the innovations developed by the Electric/Electronics Development will be invisible to users – the changes will be hidden under the bodywork. The cars of the future will be fully connected, linked up to the Internet of Things, continuously updated and involved in a constant data exchange with other vehicles and the surrounding environment – like a smartphone on wheels. Just The start-stop function for a car requires around 20 subsystems with various types of software. The aim for the future is to standardise and connect as efficiently the several technical systems which currently run in parallel in cars. In other words, the operating system for the mobility of the future is being written by Volkswagen itself.
The transition towards digital
With its transformation from automobile manufacturer to mobility provider with a connected vehicle fleet and digital services, Volkswagen is entering a new field– and has to be able to compete with companies such as Apple or Google. Thus the best talents and experts in new technologies are needed. The average age in EE Development is the early 40s, significantly lower than in many other areas. Many teams are international and interdisciplinary. Flexible working hours, mobile working, modern communications technology, short decision-making paths, flat hierarchies and more autonomy are welcomed in the industry. With training and refresher courses, external seminars and cooperation with scientific research institutions, the team’s expertise is always keeping up with the times.
The importance of virtual tests
“Here we see the interaction between the systems”, explains Rolf Zöller, head of EE Development, in front of a large wall screen called the “integration command centre” which shows in real time which test is currently running and where, whether in Wolfsburg or elsewhere in the world. Each component undergoes endurance tests in order to ensure that the software and hardware really do function together faultlessly. On some test benches, the inspection already takes place exclusively in the virtual domain, such as a GPS system for example, which is able to receive information from other vehicles and recalculate the route in real time. Testing it in a virtual environment instead of on the road saves time, effort and costs, while producing the same results.
From virtuality to reality
After all the testing procedures, the software and components finally merge in EE Development into a real car. on the ground floor of Hall 90b, there is half a dozen vehicles which do not yet exist on the roads. If visitors arrive, they are therefore covered up. “This is where the prototypes come to life”, says Nicklas Hoch, project manager for the Connected Car. His team is responsible for testing that all the previously developed systems work together correctly. Here, too, teams of UX experts, designers, engineers and software developers work in close interaction with the aim of producing a uniform and faultlessly functioning overall system. This procedure takes several weeks, but it will take around two years until the first new model rolls off the production line for the first customer.
Source: Volkswagen AG