VW CEO sees autonomy transforming cars beyond electrification

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Volkswagen AG is carrying out the world’s largest industrial overhaul for the electric vehicle era, planning a dozen battery plants in Europe alone and remodeling assembly lines around the world. Still, the CEO believes that autonomous driving technology will make a big difference.

“This change will transform the industry more than EVs and electrification,” VW CEO Herbert Diess said in an interview with Bloomberg’s Qatar Economic Forum. “When you drive autonomously, your car will change a lot.”

Dís’s view may surprise some automotive industry observers given the breadth of VW’s electrical innovations and the level of disillusionment set in self-driving car technology. Google’s Waymo started offering autonomous driving on the robot axis at the end of last year, but the service is limited to the suburbs of Phoenix. Tesla Inc. And other companies, including Ford Motor Co., predict that the technology isn’t ready. Uber Technologies Inc. And Lyft Inc. Both recently signed a contract to sell self-driving units.

Development is taking longer than expected, but automakers and tech companies continue to invest billions of dollars in trying to automate their driving. Consulting firm AlixPartners hopes that the cost of advanced, fully autonomous systems will be reduced by at least 60% by 2030, enabling a wider range of use cases.

Cars, which probably have ten times as many lines of code as smartphone code, are already software products, and when it comes to unmanned driving, they become “the most sophisticated Internet devices you can imagine,” Dies said.

VW is committed to providing autonomous driving in key markets around the world. The joint effort between Ford and its US affiliate Argo AI is on track, Dies said. In China, VW’s largest market, it has partnered with a local technology company to become one of the first companies to offer autonomous driving primarily in private cars.

European regulations have recently improved, according to Dís. Last month, VW announced plans to offer a highly automated version of the hippie-era minibus, which will be revived as an electric van, and will begin test-driving in Hamburg this year.

VW spends about € 2.5 billion ($ 3 billion) annually on software enhancements. Dís admitted that “there are still many shortages” to turn Europe’s largest automaker into a software powerhouse, but argued that industry giants should not be counted.

“We are in a very good position to remain a very powerful player in the’new car’that we call it in this future car world,” said Dís. ..

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