ID.3 Concept Car
ID.3: Concept Car

How to build the leading tech stack in the mobility industry

— An article by Björn Goerke, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and member of the executive board of the Car.Software Organisation

“If you’d ask me why I take this trip — or why I let this trip take me — I am not sure I’ll find a straight simple answer.”

This is a quote that you’ll find in my blog sf2nyc where, in 2019, I documented my bike trip from San Francisco to New York — 6,900 km in 60 days. It was a challenging tour for sure — but one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.

The same could be applied to the new journey I started earlier this year — as CTO of the Car.Software organisation within the Volkswagen Group. But this time I’m not travelling alone, but with a huge team of experts with whom I share a vision: To build the leading tech stack in the mobility industry.

The Car.Software organisation is an independent business unit within the Volkswagen Group. Here, we develop one single software platform for all brands of the Group, incorporating our operating system and the corresponding cloud connection, the automotive cloud. The platform will cover all software-based functions that go deep into the vehicle, but also digital services and value-added services for our customers, right through to systems in the dealership.

We will revolutionize our electric, electronic and software architecture by putting more and more software into the game and move functions from the hardware to the software layer. This makes us more independent from the physical layout of the car — and allows us to constantly update its function — just like a smartphone.

Stream of green light
Stream of green light
The ID.3 communicates via light | The vehicle is not yet offered for sale in Europe.

We work with a horizontally layered architecture. That may not be new in areas like cloud or enterprise software. But in the automotive industry, it’s revolutionary. Let me tell you what exactly we are aiming for.

1. By decoupling software and hardware we are starting to move capabilities that are today within the hardware component into the software layer. Just one example: If you have a little camera in the ceiling that observes if the driver is aware and still awake, it is limited to this use because software and hardware are basically embedded. By decoupling them, the camera all of the sudden becomes much more flexible, e.g. for videoconferencing.

2. The car’s operating system will provide the core abstraction, the core access to the infrastructure below, with network, actuators, sensors and operators. It provides an efficient environment, where customer functions can be realized on top comparable to apps.

3. The automotive cloud will be a native cloud environment and micro services oriented architecture. It allows us to have a space where we can realize the new business functions and things like remote control via smartphone or charging scenarios.

4. Via Over-the-air (OTA) updates, we will provide new functions and bring them in a scalable way into all the cars.

5. With the help of data, we will improve the functionality of the car, e.g. the AI algorithms for automated driving, and the services for the drivers — and then feed them back into the car via OTA mechanism.

There are layers within the software: the operating system, the base services, the extended services and customer functions. Each of them can be managed in a different cycle speed. While hardware might usually have something like a 2–6 years cycle, our operating system, base services and customer functions will have shorter cycles.

Silhouette in fron of a galaxy
Silhouette in fron of a galaxy
Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

“If you’d ask me why I take this trip — or why I let this trip take me — I am not sure I’ll find a straight simple answer.” Maybe in this case, the answer isn’t so complex at all.

In the automotive industry, software has been more of a niche topic so far. It is super exciting to see how it has moved to the center of what a car must be able to do in the future. Now we need to move fast, to simplify processes, to be agile — and, above all, to inspire and empower people. With my passion for software and cars, this is the right place at the right time.

About the author

Potrait Bjoern Goerke
Potrait Bjoern Goerke

As a „techie by heart“, Björn is Chief Technology Officer and a member of the executive board of the Car.Software Organisation (CSO). In the CTO department, he and his team are responsible for the technology strategy, governance and enablement of the entire CSO product organization. This encompasses all cross-functional aspects of the software platform shaped by the vehicle operating system and connected cloud platform, from central architecture to processes, methodologies & tools (PMT), integration, security, quality and compliance. In addition, the CTO department builds and delivers the „operating system“ — in the car and in the cloud — for the entire vehicle software platform provided by CSO.

To shape tomorrow’s mobility for everyone, Car. Software Org. brings together the brightest digital minds in the business.