Alexander Hitzinger, Board of Management member for Development at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, is responsible for developing autonomous driving at the Volkswagen Group. In an interview, he talks about the cooperation with Ford, technological challenges and future business models. (more…)
Volkswagen and Ford intensify their strategic alliance. In an interview, Volkswagen’s CEO explains the Group’s three strategic goals.
At a glance – which goals are you pursuing with the expansion of the Ford Alliance?
Herbert Diess: We are expanding our alliance with Ford with three strategic goals in mind. Firstly, we want to establish MEB as the industry standard for electric vehicles. Secondly, we want to become the market leader for light commercial vehicles and mid-size pickups. And thirdly, we want to participate in the rapidly growing market for mobility services. Once the vehicles are autonomous, many new business opportunities will open up.
Together, Ford and Volkswagen sold around 16.7 million vehicles in 2018. This gives us great leverage and significant economies of scale. And size makes a difference – both in electric mobility and in autonomous driving. Together we can seamlessly serve global markets and better utilize our automotive plants to optimize the supply chain. Ford is also a good geostrategic complement for us. This will strengthen our presence in the USA.
How will Ford use the MEB and why is that so significant?
Ford will use Volkswagen’s electric vehicle architecture and modular electrical construction kit to manufacture at least one emission-free vehicle for European customers in mass production from 2023. We have agreed to supply 600,000 MEB platform systems including battery packs and other components. In addition, we are currently discussing a completely new supply contract for a second vehicle. This could almost double the supply of our MEB platforms to Ford.
This will help us to expand electric mobility even faster. At Volkswagen alone, we intend to produce around 15 million vehicles on the MEB in the next ten years. Volkswagen is already developing and producing 27 different models on the MEB platform in the first wave. By 2028 there will be almost 70 models.
What are the advantages of this alliance in the field of light commercial vehicles and pickups?
Our alliance makes us the market leader in light commercial vehicles and pickups – with significant economies of scale. This cooperation alone generates synergies of several hundred million euros. We are well on schedule to develop commercial vehicles and pickups for both brands from 2022.
Why joining forces in the field of autonomous driving?
Especially with self-driving systems, the entire industry faces the same challenges: high development costs, a lack of global standards, the necessity of high-quality sensor technology, the anticipation of customer requirements and the search for talent to make the whole thing possible. If we share the necessary investments, we can better manage the high costs of developing software and hardware for autonomous vehicles. We expect synergy effects of several hundred million dollars.
Our cooperation will also facilitate the development of common test criteria and global standards for autonomous vehicles and cooperation with regulatory authorities worldwide. This will improve our opportunity to establish our SDS-kit as one of the leading technical platforms of the future.
What is the investment and what exactly does Argo AI bring in?
With our joint investment in Argo AI, we are securing superior engineering expertise for ourselves. We gain access to a world-class talent pool of SDS developers and intellectual property, while Argo AI receives the funding it needs to drive technology leadership in self-driving systems.
In return for our acquisition, Argo AI will receive 500 million dollars in cash, equivalent to Ford’s previous investment. We have also committed another 1 billion dollars in financing and are contributing our existing Audi Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID) unit to Argo AI. However, Ford and Volkswagen will then pursue independent plans to launch Autonomous Driving and produce their own vehicles.
What do you expect in return?
Here, too, we expect significant economies of scale. Our investment shortens the time-to-market and significantly increases Argo AI’s market potential. The CEO of Argo AI, Bryan Salesky, is a former Google manager. He has built a strong team of SDS developers who will help us meet the challenges of autonomous driving. Argo AI’s expertise includes robotics, machine learning, computer vision, sensors, computer and vehicle integration. They also have the necessary experience for commercialization. It fits perfectly.
With Argo AI’s software developers, we will analyze the huge amounts of data required to understand region-specific driving behavior, road objects, and unique conditions in different locations. This will allow us to develop region-specific market solutions. Argo AI is currently testing in five cities: Detroit, Palo Alto, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C. and Miami. The plan is to add another US city this year and expand to Europe next year.
But all this is only the beginning! I am confident that together we can offer reliable, safe and comfortable services for autonomous driving. Intelligent services that consumers and businesses alike want to use to move people and goods. The potential is very promising!
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“Safety First for Automated Driving” (SaFAD) white paper emphasizes the importance of safety by design for automated vehicles.
Emphasizing safety by design, 11 industry leaders across the automotive and automated driving technology spectrum today published “Safety First for Automated Driving”, (SaFAD), a non-binding organized framework for the development, testing and validation of safe automated passenger vehicles.
These 11 leaders — Aptiv, Audi, Baidu, BMW, Continental, Daimler, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, HERE, Infineon, Intel and Volkswagen — comprise the broadest representation across the industry and have published, to date, the largest report on how to build, test and operate a safe automated vehicle.
“In order to reach safe and consistent global development and deployment of automated vehicles, it is critical that we work across our space, with other industry leaders and regulators, to develop an universal safety criteria for automated vehicles,” says Dr. Michael Hafner, Head of Drive Technologies and Automated Driving at Mercedes-Benz Cars Development (Daimler AG).
The SaFAD white paper authors’ purpose is to emphasize the importance of safety by design, along with verification and validation, as the industry works toward creating standards for automated driving.
For the first time, SaFAD offers automated vehicle (AV) developers and operators a system for clear traceability that can prove AVs to be “safer than the average driver” through components such as cameras or steering systems.
It is also the first time presenting a summary of widely known safety-by-design and verification and validation methods of Level 3 and Level 4 automated driving as defined by the SAE (J3016).
The foundation of the SaFAD white paper is its 12 Guiding Principles, which are further refined into capabilities of the automated vehicle, from which safe-by-design elements are derived to support the capability and achieve the guiding principles. “ Safety First for Automated Driving” combines the expertise from key companies in the automaker, supplier and technology industries to help direct development of safe automated vehicles.
Interest in and development of automated driving technology has grown at a dramatic rate over the past several years, fueled by the goal of reducing fatalities related to vehicle crashes, improvement of traffic flow and the introduction of new mobility concepts. This rapid growth brings a wide range of development methodologies from established companies and the growing roster of new enterprises.
With publication of “Safety First for Automated Driving,” authors and experts from each of the participating partners will present the group’s work at industry and technology conferences internationally over the next several months.
eMove360° ASIA 2019 International Trade Fair & Conference for Mobility 4.0 – electric – connected – autonomous held from November 13 to 15 at Seoul Coex Convention and Exhibition Center(more…)
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