Volkswagen Group’s new Future Tracks program targeting digitalization era in auto industry; “James 2025”
At the Geneva Motor Show and now at the IT trade fair CeBIT in Hanover, Germany, Volkswagen Group executive management has begun to outline its “Future Tracks” program which will address, among other things, what Chairman of the Board of Management Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn calls an approaching new era of digitalization.
In an address at the opening ceremony of CeBIT 2014 in Hanover in the presence of Federal Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel, the British Prime Minister David Cameron, the Minister-President of Lower Saxony Stephan Weil and Prof. Dieter Kempf, President of BITKOM, the IT industry Association, Winterkorn declared that the increasingly intensive networking of cars with their surroundings and automatic driving would be the key topics for the intelligent mobility of the future.
At the Geneva show, Winterkorn introduced the Future Tracks program by saying:
Over the next few years, our industry will face one of the greatest upheavals since the invention of the automobile. People’s mobility expectations are undergoing a fundamental transformation. Their wishes concerning their own cars are changing faster and faster. There are fundamental differences between lifestyles and needs from region to region. And digitalization is increasingly redefining the way we live and work. Against the backdrop of these challenges, the automobile industry must not bury its head in the sand but must welcome these developments and take them into account in its long-term strategies.
One of the main challenges for our industry will be to adapt even faster to the changing needs of customers. Customers will call upon us to react faster and more flexibly in order to offer precisely the right car with the right technology at the right time. This will force us to think about whether we may need to significantly shorten the normal model cycles of seven to eight years.—Dr. Winterkorn at Geneva
The fact that the car is more and more becoming a mobile computer would have revolutionary consequences for future operation, he noted. At CeBit, he expanded a bit on the IT side of the concept:
The two ground-breaking inventions, the automobile and the computer, are moving closer together. We need to shape the mobility of the future in an even more intelligent, more networked way.
Information technology has been a key component of the automobile industry for some time. Our cars are already mobile computer centers, with 1.5 kilometers of cables, more than 50 control units and the computing power of 20 highly advanced PCs. Now we face the considerable challenge of making mobility even more intelligent and more networked together with the IT industry.—Dr. Winterkorn at CeBIT
Winterkorn said that people’s expectations of mobility are changing fundamentally, which is why the Volkswagen Group is launching the major new future-oriented initiative “Future Tracks”. This initiative, which will bring “the brightest people in our Group” together to find answers to the major challenges faced by the automotive industry will pay key attention to digitalization.
Winterkorn said that the Volkswagen Group already employed 9,300 highly qualified IT specialists and was investing about €3.8 billion (US$5.3 billion) per year in information technology.
According to Winterkorn, no one can realize the intelligent car of the future working alone.
The challenges we face here are the modernization of infrastructure, the clarification of legal aspects and the strengthening of Germany as an IT location. The automobile industry, the IT industry, business, scientists and politicians therefore need to join forces. The mobility of the future will be worthwhile for everyone concerned – especially for consumers, who will benefit from cars that are even safer, more comfortable and more intelligent.
The car must not become a data monster. We already protect our customers against a wide variety of risks such as aquaplaning, micro-sleep and long, time-consuming congestion. With the same attention to our responsibilities, we intend to protect our customers against the abuse of their data. I clearly say yes to Big Data, yes to greater security and convenience, but no to paternalism and Big Brother. At this point, the entire industry is called upon. We need a voluntary commitment by the automobile industry. The Volkswagen Group is ready to play its part.—Dr. Winterkorn
Volkswagen has been moving ahead with automatic driving technology for 15 years. At CeBIT, Winterkorn presented the vision “James 2025”, a world premiere, to the Chancellor and the British Prime Minister. This study developed by Volkswagen Group Research demonstrates how the virtual cockpit of the future could look.
As soon as the automatic driving mode is activated, the steering wheel, seating position and light coding change, and a large central screen gives all the vehicle occupants details of any planned driving maneuvers. A second screen with touchpad operation on the console of the central tunnel provides additional infotainment functions.
At CeBIT, Volkswagen Group IT is presenting the key topics Connected Car and Electro-Mobility in Hall 2. Exhibits from five Group brands give an idea of the world of car IT and electrified powertrains. Apart from demonstration vehicles, the exhibits include apps, a gesture-controlled cockpit and telematics applications.