When it comes to autonomous driving, the spotlight is usually on the technology. But the future of mobility is made by people for people. Here, four experts from the Volkswagen Group talk about the most important and ground-breaking aspects of autonomy.
The designer: Michael Mauer
In the city of the future, vehicles driving autonomously will be part of everyday life. You often hear that the new era will mean the end of classic automobile design. The opposite is true. Designers will be able to be more flexible, whereas today that flexibility is often tied up by numerous technical requirements; obviously, brand identity and an individualized appearance will continue to play a key role in the future, and to an even greater degree in the interior space. For a designer, this is an exciting prospect. The switch from a combustion engine to an electric system creates a situation in which technology can open up entirely new possibilities.
Michael Mauer studied design at the University of Pforzheim. After working at Mercedes Benz and serving as Executive Director of Design at Saab and as Head Designer at Porsche, Mauer joined the Volkswagen Group in 2016.
Today, 15 to 20% of our interior vehicle space is freely customizable, the rest is dictated by technology. In the future, this percentage is set to increase, given that the mechanical components necessary to operate an electric vehicle are fewer in number and more compact. Car design will thus adopt an approach similar to that taken with a living space, so with comfortable seats and plenty of room. The automobile will no longer be a simple means of transportation – it can become a private retreat in the midst of urban traffic. I find this change even more exciting. It means opening up new options for my design team. This new vision has already been demonstrated by the Volkswagen brand with the I.D. BUZZ and I.D. CROZZ concepts, which show just how versatile interior spaces are set to become. (Michael Mauer, Head Designer at the Volkswagen Group).
The digital pro: Johann Jungwirth
We are experiencing something like the reinvention of the automobile. Electrification, automation and digitalization are revolutionizing the way we get from A to B – and doing so on many levels. With electrification, we are improving the air quality in our cities – especially when power is obtained from renewable sources – but we are also reducing noise. For me, there’s no going back and this is something that motivates me: electric cars are more comfortable and, for me personally, much more fun, with their instant acceleration.
Johann Jungwirth studied electrical engineering at the Berufsakademie Baden-Württemberg, then worked at Mercedes-Benz and Daimler. Beginning in 2008, he worked long-term in the USA, most recently at Apple. Since 2015 he has been CDO of the Volkswagen Group.
Autonomous driving is another fantastic breakthrough and I can hardly wait to bring the first f self-driving cars to market in the next four years. For many people who are currently unable to drive – for example people with disabilities – this will be their first chance to experience individual mobility. What drives me are the endless possibilities in connection with autonomous vehicles. Today, our cities are marred by a shortage of parking, and by traffic, noise, stress and road danger. These problems can be eliminated with autonomous vehicles, which are used only when required, on a shared basis, and much more efficiently, since they can drive almost continuously. Today’s parking spaces can be transformed into parks, playgrounds, shopping centers, offices or living spaces and road accidents can be reduced almost to zero, given that self-driving cars aren’t distracted and don’t get tired. (Johann Jungwirth, Chief Digital Officer, Volkswagen Group)
The researcher: Ulrich Eichhorn
As a worldwide industrial group, we bear a special social responsibility. We want to use our creative powers for the benefit of man and the environment. Our goal, and my main personal motivation, about which I feel passionately, is to create sustainable and safe mobility. In German cities alone, an improved traffic flow, as is possible with autonomous driving, would save up to 30% in fuel, CO2 and pollutant emissions. Per year, that would be three million tons of CO2. However, this future will not happen overnight, it is emerging bit by bit. The self-driving systems of tomorrow can already be seen in the more advanced driver-assistance systems, which allow the car to park or reduce accidents due to driver error on the highway (of course monitored by the driver).
Ulrich Eichhorn holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering. After working with Ford and General Motors, he was appointed Managing Director of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). Since 2016 he has headed the Volkswagen Group’s Research and Development Division.
The vision of accident-free driving is being passionately pursued across the entire the Volkswagen Group. Against this backdrop, we also need to think about the future of the occupants – and particularly the driver – who might not take up the defined position in vehicles they occupy today. Airbag systems as we know them today will no longer be sufficient but will need to be designed in a different way, as for the most part of the protection and passive safety systems. The Research and Development Department is paying a great deal of attention to these issues: we are committed to our aspiration of responsible corporate citizenship and to the expectations of our customers. My goal, therefore, is to continuously develop new technologies for urban mobility – for improved environmental protection and traffic safety in cities. (Ulrich Eichhorn, Head of Research and Development at Volkswagen Group)
The developer: Alejandro Vukotich
As a busy person without a chauffeur, I would like nothing more than to have a “digital James”. I want to have freedom behind the wheel – if there even is a steering wheel in the future. I would like to be able to decide for myself what I do in the car: work, relax, play, or chat. I would like to be able to take care of my mail on the highway from Munich to Ingolstadt and then Skype with family and friends on the way home. And when I drive into the city on the weekend, I don’t want to have to look for a parking spot or deal with stressful parking manoeuvres. Why can’t my car do it without me? I just want to be the passenger.
Alejandro Vukotich is an electrical technology engineer. After joining Audi in 1999, he worked in the area of assistance systems, among other fields. Since 2017 he has been Head of Development for Automated Driving.
I’m passionate about autonomous driving and it motivates me every day because it represents a profound shift, a game-changer that I can’t wait to see happen: new technologies and digitalization are an opportunity, not a threat. Today, we as a Group earn our income selling cars, but I am confident that tomorrow we will also be selling a range of mobility services. This will represent a fundamental shift in our business model. We are working with the historic big names from Silicon Valley but also with young start-ups from the high-tech industry. It’s all about how you bring people together, managing to create a solid team and achieving things together. The technology is changing in ways that seemed unthinkable just a few years ago – and we are in the middle of it. (Alejandro Vukotich, Head of Development for Automated Driving at Audi).
Source: TOGETHER.net – Volkswagen AG