VW.OS by Volkswagen CARIAD with BlackBerry QNX
With the introduction of the Volkswagen ID.4, VW’s all-electric future quickly bore fruit. However, what it also needed was something that would put them on par with Tesla and Ford. What it needed was a new vehicle operating system. It also took VW to make the big leap forward and become the next player in the software-engineered vehicle industry. Now that work comes to life as VW.OS, VW’s vehicle operating system, and VW.AC, the automotive cloud that will enable VW to create the “digital, connected car of tomorrow.”
The connected car
With cars as advanced and connected as our own smartphones, the way manufacturers make our vehicles is changing rapidly. What used to be separate but equivalent systems in your car are now all centrally integrated and controlled. What’s coming is a vehicle that lets you download apps to make your vehicle work differently than the same vehicle next to you. In the very near future, the features you had to pay extra for now will soon be available for you to download and activate later when you’re ready for them – or even remove them if you end up not liking it .
That’s what the software-controlled vehicle (SDV) of the near future is all about, but it needs a vehicle operating system (OS) to function properly. For Volkswagen and CARIAD, its leading software development company, this meant developing new software: VW.OS and VW.AC.
VW.OS is essentially the same as Android on your smartphone or Windows on your computer. It is the main program that allows a human and a machine to work together using languages everyone understands. It also controls background functions that are required but run with or without human interaction. As Volkswagen puts it: “VW.OS is a self-driving software platform for the seamless integration of applications into our hardware landscape and cloud VW.AC.” The AC stands for Automotive Cloud and once again resembles what you probably already know from your phone or computer. It’s the virtual hard drive that connects to multiple machines to access data from apps, vehicle information, and more.
The basic idea of VW.OS and VW.AC is the development of a uniform and scalable platform for all brands of the Volkswagen Group. Right now every brand is doing their own thing when it comes to how a vehicle performs and interacts with the user. It’s less about making your Porsche more like a VW in the user experience and more about ensuring that the programming, the communication between the vehicles and the app integration are the same.
Coming back to the phone comparison, you and your friends might have different versions of Motorola phones, but they all run Android, so not only can they all have the same apps, but they can even share files with each other via a cloud app on different phones with added or removed features. This is the main idea of what CARIAD is trying to achieve with Volkswagen. As CARIAD informed us: “By creating our own VW.OS software platform we ensure that we maintain sovereignty over the electronics architecture and are able to provide over-the-air updates on a regular basis and for a variety of functions to offer. We ensure digital added value, long-term competitiveness and secure data handling.”
Need a little help from our friends
In one example, VW’s CARIAD is working in partnership with Bosch on middleware, software that works between the operating system and the application. CARIAD also works with BlackBerry using its QNX through a software license. We’ve already talked about how QNX integrates with Ford and Magna and it’s a similar story. For VW.OS, QNX serves as the base operating system layer that works with hardware, memory management, process isolation, and more. As CARIAD explained to us: “It is a very good choice for embedded systems in safety-critical areas. Building on this base layer in the ADAS/AD stack of CARIAD’s VW.OS, further layers are combined by our developers.”
It’s coming sooner than you expect
While all of this sounds very Tesla-y and full of forward-thinking ideas, VW.OS and VW.AC are coming to a Volkswagen vehicle within the next few years. While they haven’t given us a hard date, we should expect to see VW’s version of the SDV by “mid-decade” according to CARIAD. Each brand will build “a unique interface for customers” and apply their own design.
You and your buddy might have the same ID.4 or ID.Buzz on the outside, but both will likely differ on the inside due to a unique set of features and functionality via upgrades or OTA updates. In terms of content, the future looks much more fluid.