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Volkswagen ERL: the heart of the digital revolution

26.3.2019
Volkswagen ERL: the heart of the digital revolution

The Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory combines the Group’s engineering know-how with Silicon Valley’s pioneering vision. This is where the future of mobility is shaped.

In the heart of Silicon Valley, about halfway between San Jose and San Francisco, the team at the Volkswagen ERL – Electronic Research Laboratory – is working on solutions for the mobility of the future.

This choice of location, not far from the headquarters of Apple and Google and from Stanford University, is anything but random: an incredible wealth of innovative ideas, a cutting-edge working culture and unparalleled diversity of industries, start-ups, investors and young talent merge here. Together they are defining the future of society.

A creative environment

Enormous technological potential, and more besides. Volkswagen also chose this part of California for another reason, as Nikolai Reimer, Executive Director of the ERL, explains: “In this highly creative, forward-looking environment, we can already get a glimpse today of society’s future trajectory, and identify the solutions we will need to deliver for the mobility of tomorrow. Our core goal can be summed up as:innovate to drive change’. For two decades, the Electronics Research Laboratory has consistently managed to collaborate with the right partners and focus on the most relevant ideas.”

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The informal office

This centre employs around 200 experts from a whole range of disciplines: engineers, designers, programmers, psychologists and sales specialists.

The inside looks nothing like a conventional office. The meeting rooms have informally arranged clusters of seats and large glass walls on which people can directly scribble down their ideas using special pens. Scattered between the desks are a whole host of technical gadgets and digital devices: fitness trackers, Bluetooth speakers, Wi-Fi scales, and 3D-printed parts. These prototypes are testament to the incredible speed with which new ideas are tested, discarded and reworked in the Electronics Research Laboratory.

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A complete experience

An unconventional approach, which is useful also – and above all – in the automotive industry: Volkswagen works to offer a complete customer experience, which begins long before they step into the car itself and which really makes a difference.

The main areas this laboratory is involved with are networked mobility, autonomous driving and holistic user experience. Innovations are developed in one of two ways: either by refining technologies that are already present in vehicles, or by thinking outside the box and trying out completely new approaches.

Unconventional vision

This is Silicon Valley’s philosophy: “It’s a melting pot of ideas, where people from countless different disciplines work in tandem to develop concepts that are then turned into products,” as Payton White, Head of Software Platforms at the lab, explains. Problems are taken on here with unconventional strategies and alternative visions, with the goal of attaining a finished product that offers a real advantage to the consumer.

We have the freedom to try out crazy, unconventional approaches and ideas in our search for a solution. But eventually, we gather all the findings back in and use them to develop a tangible product for our customers,” concludes Ryan Williams, Head of User Experience and Mechatronics at the ERL. The car industry is changing, but Volkswagen has taken up the challenge.

Source: Volkswagen AG

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