Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess is adamant that the German car company must develop its electric vehicle software in-house. In a recent meeting with executives, Diess outlined Volkswagen’s core needs in the topic of software, indicating that it must be developed in-house and that sourcing effective and dependable software from a notable tech company simply isn’t an option if the company wants to remain independent.
“If we want to retain our independence,” Diess told his top managers in a recent meeting, “we have to be able to develop the software in the car ourselves. This is the only way for us to guarantee long-term success.”
Volkswagen’s EV project, which has been catalyzed by the introduction of the ID. family of vehicles has been a thorn in the side of the world’s leading car company since its introduction. While Volkswagen has made electric models before, they have not been on the company’s new MEB (Modular electric drive matrix) platform designed for electric cars. The platform requires a robustly accurate and scalable software program, something that Volkswagen has encountered several problems with early on in its electric offensive.
But the roadblocks and bottlenecks in Volkswagen’s software are not issues that Diess is willing to have someone else fix. He expects his competent software engineers and other team members to figure out the shortcomings on their own in an attempt to remain free of dependence on another company, whether it would be a tech company like Apple or a fellow electric automaker like Tesla. “We must not hand over data sovereignty, the customer interface, and ultimately the “brain” of the car to the big tech players.”
The software essentially acts as the brain of the car. To give owners a more pleasurable ownership experience, the software needs to be free of any discrepancies. The issues can cause things as small as voice recognition to go awry or things as large as software updates to be uninstallable, making a vehicle outdated and, in some cases, unusable. Volkswagen has had its fair share of issues with the MEB platform, but it claims that many of the difficulties it has encountered are solved. Additionally, it has promised owners that software updates will be ready to be downloaded to cars regularly beginning Summer 2021.
With automakers big and small fighting to keep pace with Tesla, Diess understands the urgency of the project at hand. “This is by far the most important project for this Group in the next five, probably ten years,” he said, according to Business Insider. Automakers are being forced to adapt or be left behind as Tesla extends its lead in the sector, especially in software. While other car companies like Ford are releasing highly-competitive vehicles like the Mustang Mach-E, which has proven to be a notable adversary to the Tesla Model Y, the sector is only becoming more concentrated on what seems like a daily basis. With new companies coming around, focusing purely on electric powertrains, legacy automakers have almost dragged their feet through the proverbial mud, only delaying the inevitable: they will fall behind if they do not focus on electrification.
Volkswagen is arguably the most invested legacy automaker in the EV transition. Diess has been extremely vocal regarding VW’s transition to electric cars, recognizing that the market will only become more competitive, more robust, and more concentrated. A lead now could extend into several decades and make Volkswagen more desirable than other car companies who will confront these same issues in a few years.