"We could give you autonomous driving for the next 50 miles, so you can relax or sleep."
Whether we like it or not, the automotive landscape is changing. ICE-powered vehicles are making way for battery-powered alternatives and autonomous technology will soon render the driver useless. However, the way we view in-car features is also changing. The idea of subscription-based services is nothing new. Audi, for example, offers its range with several subscriptions, including navigation.
But this is only the beginning. Talking to Bloomberg, Cariad CEO Dirk Hilgenberg said he believes this idea can be used for things like self-driving technology. "There is a new business model already out there - a subscription model, or function-on-demand - where you can drive autonomously if you want, for the next 50 miles. We would support that."
Volkswagen is yet to offer Level 4 autonomous technology, but Hilgenberg noted this idea would allow people to pay for self-driving when they needed it. He added, "We could give you autonomous driving for the next 50 miles, so you can relax or sleep."
The views held by the head of VW's software division contrast sharply with Audi's legal expert, Uta Klawitter. She believes that we're still far away from sleeping behind the wheel of an autonomous vehicle and remarked that full self-driving will likely be implemented in public transport before anything else. "We will see autonomously driven people movers in the cities - which means short distances."
Hilgenberg's subscription idea differs slightly from Tesla's FSD (full self-driving) subscription. At the time, Musk's automaker charged $199 a month for the privilege. However, Cariad's big boss envisions purchasing the function for an allotted time or distance. In theory, this would allow you to catch up on essential tasks while your ID.4 gets on with the task of driving. If you don't plan on using the technology frequently, this makes a lot of sense.
VW has previously alluded to this idea. "Our cost modeling says if we charge €7 an hour for Level 4 autonomous drive mode, this is a profitable business case."
The Volkswagen Group, through Cariad, announced a partnership with Qualcomm Technologies earlier this year. The company's cutting-edge Snapdragon Ride Platform portfolio will help the company develop the systems it needs to introduce Level 4 autonomous driving. At the time, Hilgenberg said, "We are striving to let customers take their hands off the steering wheel in the future."
But recent reports suggest this technology (and the subscription idea) may not come anytime soon. Cariad is facing several delays, which has caused frustration amongst Audi and Porsche executives; a software development setback has forced the aforementioned automakers to delay key electric vehicles by a few years. It's fair to assume that if Cariad is behind in its vehicle software development, autonomous work is similarly affected.
"Some ideas did materialize and some we needed to correct because reality hits and you need to deliver software," said the Cariad CEO.