Cars as a service: the future of shareable vehicles
“A future in which every single Volkswagen vehicle is shareable in every way you can imagine. This is what we want to achieve,” Huettel states.
For Volkswagen, the future of connected vehicles transcends beyond automation and even digital assistance.
“We want a future where you can find and enter a car using nothing but your smartphone as a key, or letting friends and family borrow your car while you’re away, simply by granting them permission through an app. It’s a future of convenience. It’s what we’re striving for. I think this could have a huge impact on transportation infrastructure in general. Our most important goal is to enable people.”
The importance (and integrity) of data
For technology to become more useful, and as it does more for us, data increasingly vital. Without it, the many conveniences of advances such digital assistants and other artificial intelligence-powered solutions, simply would not be able to exist.
In a world where companies are transforming into tech companies, where data privacy concerns are rightfully becoming more important, Volkswagen is approaching privacy from the ground up: “AI is the future, but before we all work on it, we need to focus on the first step,” says Huettel. “Not only what data, and how it’s used to maximum effect, but the security of this data is absolutely paramount. The first step must always be to ensure that customer data is safe. Then, and only then, can we safely leverage that data to its full potential, to benefit the customer’s life.”
The integrity of data is also a primary concern for Volkswagen, and programs such as Microsoft’s Shared Innovation Initiative ensure that Microsoft will never leverage Volkswagen’s data to compate against the company.
No tech without culture
Beyond applying technology, the importance of culture and leadership cannot be overstated when it comes to transformation – especially a transformation as vast and as ambitious as the one that Volkswagen is undergoing.
As for the partnership between Volkswagen and Microsoft itself, Huettel states that “We had a lot of discussions and looked at offerings from several cloud vendors. We based our decision around organisational and cultural transformation. We weren’t just looking for a technology partner – we were looking for a cultural that is really interesting.”
As part of the partnership with Microsoft, Volkswagen will establish a new automotive cloud development office in the US, close to Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond. Microsoft will provide hands-on support to Volkswagen as it ramps up its new office, including assistance in the hiring process, human resources management, and consulting services. The workforce is expected to reach around 300 engineers in the near future.
In addition, Volkswagen developers and engineers will benefit from Microsoft’s cloud expertise across its organisation, learning valuable insights through collaboration, while ensuring that the development process remains agile.
“We came to the conclusion that we needed to change in a revolutionary way,” says Huettel, “We want to leverage what we can from Microsoft’s culture and Microsoft’s technology. We want to be the Microsoft of the automotive industry, in terms of being seen as the company that made a digital transformation, and is really perceived as one of the digital players in the market.”