The automobile's days of simply transporting drivers will be a thing of the past at Volkswagen. The German automaker wants to turn its cars into digital devices on wheels.
And to ensure it's competitive in the near future, VW will spend over $4 billion to invest in digitalization by 2025. The automaker announced Thursday its intentions to expand and build upon its "We" network to make the car a central hub in the Internet of Things (IoT).
"Our customers will become part of an ecosystem that we have named We. This system complements the Volkswagen experience on wheels and enables the customer to take their world into their vehicle," Jürgen Stackmann, the Volkswagen brand's board member for sales, said in a statement.
VW's We service already includes WePark for integrated parking billing, WeDeliver package delivery to VW vehicles, and WeShare car sharing in some parts of Germany. WeShare will launch with 2,000 electric cars across Berlin, Germany in 2019 before making its way across Europe and to North America in 2020.
But the real thought behind We will be in the software. VW explained the need for a simple information technology (IT) architecture. The investment will first come to fruition with the ID electric car portfolio, which will run "a few" computers with a "unified programming language." Today, cars can have up to 70 separate control units. VW's software will come from a single source and enable services based on a "vw.OS" operating system. The separation of software and hardware inside the car will help VW achieve its goal to digitalize the experience and lay the foundation for continuous updates and upgrades.
The digital strategy's backbone will be the "One Digital Platform" (ODP) based on cloud technology. The cloud will connect the car and drivers with services, perhaps similar to General Motors' "Marketplace" application. Marketplace allows for drivers to pay for fuel with participating stations from the car, reserve a table at a restaurant, and even order food from the infotainment system.
VW said it will soon announce external projects and partnerships with the ODP.
The digitalization will truly commence in 2020 when VW connects its entire fleet of cars to the IoT.