It's not in the traditional sense.
New vehicles are evolving in other ways aside from all-electric powertrains. Once the full transition from internal combustion to battery-electric is complete, whenever that'll be, all cars will be advanced computers on four wheels. Some won't even have steering wheels. Highly developed algorithms will dictate when to slow down, how fast to go, and the best way to get wherever you're going. Much of this is already in place, but Volkswagen is determined not only to take mobility technologies to the next level but also to be the industry's go-to software source.
The German automaker has just announced plans to develop its own operating system and software platform. Christian Senger, head of VW's Car.Software division and a member of the VW board, compared this innovation to the open-source Android software for smartphones.
"Volkswagen wants to retain control of the entire vehicle architecture - that includes the electronics," he said. "For this reason alone, we cannot give third parties complete access to data in our vehicles." However, what VW aims to do is develop software through a standardized operating system for the Group's numerous brands.
In other words, Audi, Porsche, and Lamborghini won't have their own software development systems, but will instead utilize a single unit, though there will be some customization flexibility. Therefore, the automaker will join the Linux open-source code community. Tesla began releasing some of its open-source Linux software code in 2018.
"The operating system is not something that we will control on our own. We will define its core and then quickly include open-source components, to create standards. This will create opportunities for partnerships," Senger added.
VW wants to get ahead of rival automakers, aside from Tesla, in overall software development and control. Currently, many brands rely on third-party software companies, but VW, not surprisingly, wants everything under a single roof. The Car.Software division was launched only last January and already enjoys a nearly $8 billion budget. It currently employs about 3,000 software experts and by 2025 VW wants to increase this to over 10,000. The upcoming VW ID.3 hatchback and its US counterpart, the VW ID.4 crossover, are among the first all-electric vehicles to feature Car.Software's work.
However, the ID.3 recently encountered numerous software problems that once threatened its planned launch date. Those issues are quickly being resolved but it's important to remember much of this is a first for VW. It's entering completely new territory. Tesla has at least a 10-year head start over VW in this realm, a fact the latter's CEO recently admitted.