Friday April 30th 2021
Help from Mobileye and Nvidia
VW will develop computer chips in-house in the future
Innovative software is becoming more and more important in the development of self-driving cars – but this primarily requires high-performance chips. Volkswagen is lagging behind the competition from the USA in the development of semiconductors. With the help of cooperation partners, the group now wants to catch up.
In addition to the software for self-driving cars, Volkswagen also wants to develop the necessary high-performance chips itself. “In order to achieve optimal performance with the high demands in the car, software and hardware must come from a single source,” said CEO Herbert Diess to the “Handelsblatt”. The company’s own software subsidiary Cariad should develop the ability to do so. Apple and Tesla have more expertise in semiconductors, said Diess. In order to come to eye level with them, the car company wants to use the knowledge of the tech companies Mobileye and Nvidia, the newspaper reported.
The group does not want to manufacture semiconductors itself, but it does want to determine their design and technical layout and, if possible, own the patents. Volkswagen is already working with the Intel subsidiary Mobileye, which specializes in camera systems for robot cars. Experts suspect that the partnership could be expanded. This fits the news that, according to an insider, Intel boss Pat Gelsinger was in Wolfsburg on Thursday. It is not known who he met at VW and what was discussed. Volkswagen did not comment.
Intel only confirmed that Gelsinger had visited BMW and Deutsche Telekom. The Munich-based car manufacturer is cooperating with Mobileye and other partners as part of an alliance. Nvidia is one of the most important manufacturers of chips for the automotive industry. Volkswagen also purchases semiconductor components from the US company. The commercial vehicle division of VW, based in Hanover, develops hardware and software for self-driving shuttle services together with Mobileye. The technology is to be used in the future at the Moia driving service, which belongs to Volkswagen. It is also intended to be used for parcel delivery services, which can hardly find drivers due to the rapidly growing online trade.
Diess: 40 percent autonomous new cars by 2035
In the joint venture Argo AI with the US car maker Ford, Volkswagen is also working on self-driving vans. The software subsidiary Cariad in Ingolstadt focuses on driver assistance systems and robot technology for cars. Volkswagen has bundled its software activities in its own organization, which was recently renamed Cariad. Coordinating all of these activities is likely to be one of the tasks of the IT director that Volkswagen intends to appoint in the near future. CEO Diess announced in the interview that he would be increasingly taking care of software activities. “Cariad is simply the most important common task in the group. You have to see that in the fact that the CEO gets involved. And with the amount of work there is room for an IT director.”
Diess expects that around 40 percent of all new cars will be able to drive autonomously by the middle of the next decade. In order to be part of this future business, the group invests 2.5 billion euros annually. In addition there are “one or the other acquisition,” said Diess. Volkswagen is currently pushing ahead with the expansion of electromobility, putting the entire industry in a tight spot. The global shortage of chips has so far not thwarted plans. This is also due to the fact that the car manufacturers are using the scarce semiconductors in such a way that the demand for e-cars and profitable SUVs can be met. In the case of other vehicles, however, the supply problems are noticeable.
Like other manufacturers, VW had to stop the production lines several times in some plants and register short-time work. There is hardly a car manufacturer in the world that has been spared the bottlenecks. Other industries are also affected. In the opinion of economic researchers, the chip crisis has now even become a risk for the recovery of German industry. According to EU insiders, the European Union is preparing a chip alliance with the domestic industry giants STMicroelectronics, NXP, Infineon and ASM in order to reduce its dependence on Asian manufacturers.