VW launches wireless software updates for BEVs

16 September 2021

Volkswagen (VW) has inched closer to becoming a more software-oriented carmaker, mirroring pioneers like Tesla by rolling out wireless over-the-air (OTA) software updates for its ID. models. The company said it is the only high-volume manufacturer to provide this type of technology.

It has not gone unnoticed that VW has made software and connected services a priority while also aiming to generate additional revenue. As anticipated, the OTA software updates are now available to VW’s ID. family of battery-electric vehicles (BEVs). Up until recently, these updates had only been accessible to registered customers as part of a test phase.

While VW wants to improve the digital customer experience, it has openly stated that the updates also form a new business model and can provide extra revenue. Free software will be provided every 12 weeks or so, but users can order other functions if needed. This could range from travel assistance services to improved battery performance for long journeys. The company is confident in its outlook and said it will potentially generate ‘hundreds of millions’ in additional revenue in the coming years.

Hitting a milestone

‘Full availability of our over-the-air updates underlines the innovative capacity of Volkswagen and forms the basis for a completely new, digital customer experience,’ said VW CEO Ralf Brandstätter. ‘At the same time, we are laying the foundation for new digital business models and hitting a key milestone.’

Developed with VW’s software unit Cariad, the updates introduce new features, such as optimising surroundings recognition. Some of the new functions relate to the ID. Light – a light strip at the bottom of the windscreen that provides information on energy-saving driving. The company also said it has improved image processing for the multi-function camera, which detects motorcycles and other road users. Additionally, customers should benefit from a more ‘intuitive’ infotainment system.

Smart connections

One buzzword the automotive industry has become increasingly familiar with is that of the ‘connected car’. As more consumers are looking for smart driving experiences, carmakers have upped the ante to provide top-notch technology and connected services. Embracing connectivity and adapting business strategies are key issues for many manufacturers. VW is right on track to capitalise on these opportunities, focussing on connectivity innovation in a rapidly changing market.

‘The new updates are a central functionality of the digital, connected car. They will quickly become normal for our customers, in the same way as they have for their smartphones,’ said Thomas Ulbrich, member of the board of management for technical development. ‘Software development is iterative and fast. We work in short cycles, like a tech company, and provide updates to our customers at correspondingly short intervals.’

While Tesla has pioneered OTA updates, VW has now taken a large step forward in software innovation. In a few years, these updates are likely to play a more vital role in the carmaker’s range of BEVs – and this alone marks a new era for the company.