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VW Group and Microsoft to collaborate on cloud-based developments

Phil Curry | 17 Feb 2021

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Phil Curry

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Phil Curry, Daily Brief Editor, is a seasoned automotive journalist, always keen to seek out and explain the latest industry developments

Luftaufnahme der Stadt Tokio mit Netzwerkverbindungen und Wolken

Volkswagen (VW) Group is to collaborate with Microsoft to build a cloud-based automated-driving platform (ADP) to deliver the technology on a global scale.

The platform will be built on Microsoft Azure, the tech giant’s cloud-computing software, and will see VW Group’s Car.Software Organisation increase the efficiency of development of both advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and automated-driving functions for passenger cars across all brands.

The two companies have been collaborating on the VW Automotive Cloud since 2018. This software will span all of the carmaker’s digital services and mobility offerings. The extended partnership is another example of carmakers seeking the tech industry’s help to simplify development and to push forward with new digital solutions as the automotive industry transitions towards a technology-focused future.

VW and Microsoft plans
Source: Volkswagen Group

‘As we transform Volkswagen Group into a digital-mobility provider, we are looking to continuously increase the efficiency of our software development,’ said Dirk Hilgenberg, CEO of the Car.Software Organisation. ‘We are building the ADP with Microsoft to simplify our developers’ work through one scalable and data-based engineering environment. By combining our comprehensive expertise in the development of connected driving solutions with Microsoft’s cloud and software-engineering know-how, we will accelerate the delivery of safe and comfortable mobility services.’

Driver assistance

Building ADAS and autonomous vehicles will improve safety while reducing congestion and therefore helping combat air pollution. To do this, carmakers need large-scale computational capabilities, analysing petabytes of data from road and weather conditions to obstacle detection and driver behaviours.

This data will help AD functions through training, simulation and validation. Machine-learning algorithms that learn from billions of real and simulated miles driven are key to connected-driving experiences.

VW Group’s Car.Software Organisation will address these challenges, thanks to its partnership with Microsoft, by simplifying the developer experience and leveraging the ‘learnings from miles driven’ through one database comprising real-traffic data from the group’s vehicles and simulation data.

‘ADP will help reduce the development cycles from months to weeks and efficiently manage the huge amount of data,’ the companies said. Work will start on ADP immediately, and both VW Group and Microsoft are looking to continuously expand the functional scope of the development platform.

Going digital

The entire automotive industry is shifting to become more digital and reap the benefits of connected vehicles and cloud-based technologies. By 2025, VW Group hopes to have invested around €27 billion in digitalisation while increasing the amount of in-house software development in the car to 60%, up from 10% today.

While digitalisation allows for a more straightforward development process, it also enables VW Group to provide new services and options to drivers after leaving the dealership. Using Azure, the carmaker can develop and test both ADAS and AD features before deploying them across the vehicle fleet, much like new operating systems on phones and computers. This means all VW Group cars would benefit from new developments, rather than those yet to be sold.

This could also open new profit streams, as carmakers developing over-the-air updates (OTA) can sell new features or existing optional extras to drivers who only have base-model vehicles. In time, such services could be opened up to third-party developers who can then help drivers to create a more ‘personalised’ version of their vehicle.

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