VW boss: data drives autonomous driving – new US strategy in progress


According to VW CEO Herbert Diess, the handling of safety-relevant data will be a key issue in autonomous driving – the development of ready-to-use services for broader use will, however, take some time. In the important US market, Volkswagen wants to use the ramp-up of e-mobility and digitization to steal market share from the competition.

The federal government had announced that it would test self-driving cars “in regular operation” in projects from 2022 onwards. Medium-term implementation of the technology is one of the goals of the new VW strategy.

“We expect by 2030 that we will see fleet operations and also private cars that drive autonomously in places,” said Diess in an interview with the news agencies dpa and dpa-AFX. “There will be setbacks, but that’s still eight or nine years. It can also be a little earlier, it can also be a little later. A lot of development resources are flowing into it, worldwide.”

At its core, it is about the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the perception of different driving situations. Technical progress is “very fast at the moment,” said Diess. “But the safety hurdles are also great – and there are many special cases that can happen to you on the street. It’s difficult to assess.”

Exactly which rules should apply to autonomous driving as a possible everyday technology is currently still the subject of controversial discussions in many countries. The question concerns politicians and lawyers – but also ethicists who deal with the dilemma of which other road users a computer-controlled car should avoid first in the event of an accident. The industry is adapting to a large number of nationally different guidelines.

The use of vehicle data itself is also becoming more of an issue. Diess made it clear: “In Europe, data initially belongs to our customers – they decide what happens to it.” In the case of information that is important, for example, for the detection of traffic jams or slippery roads, “every society will also ensure that it is public – we will certainly share that”. In addition, the question must be taken into account when training the systems for autonomous driving.

Networking motorists, car manufacturers and service providers requires dealing with different values. “In China, data is considered a common good that is available to the common good. In America, data is mainly seen as an economic good, is not public, but remains with companies, with Google, with Apple, in order to serve the business model there. And in Europe we have a very strong focus on the data sovereignty of the user. ”

New services are an important addition at VW – but the core business should continue regardless. “Mobility as a service is increasing, and we want to be part of the big growth. But it will account for perhaps 15 percent of the world’s mobility turnover in 2030.” Your own car will remain dominant. “Leased, shared, rented – but the private car that you use or buy for a certain period of time. And that too will be able to drive long distances yourself. That will remain our main field of business.”

Diess is convinced that the individual group brands would retain their importance. They remained a purchase criterion. “But brands also have to renew themselves, they have to stay fresh,” he said, also referring to the transfer of the majority stake in Bugatti to the Croatian company Rimac, in which the VW subsidiary Porsche in turn holds a stake. V “olkswagen has repositioned itself in the electric world, Audi is the pioneer for electric vehicles in the premium segment, Porsche has the most ambitious electrification program.”

The expansion of the range of electric models in the United States is a great opportunity six years after “Dieselgate”. “With the beginning of electrification, we are in a situation in which everyone starts with a blank sheet of paper,” explained Diess. The target would be ten percent market share. The Chattanooga location is the first manufacturer to convert a plant to e-production. “We should therefore be able to reposition ourselves in this environment. We will revise the US strategy in the next few months.”