Today’s cars are rapidly becoming computers on wheels and gaining access to the internet is becoming increasingly critical, whether to update in-vehicle software, stay on top of traffic conditions, remotely start or unlock vehicles, or allow motorists to stream music and other sources of entertainment.
That’s led the Volkswagen Group of America to launch a new joint venture with Aeris Communications, a Silicon Valley company specializing in what has come to be known as the Internet of Things, or IoT. The new company, Ventic LLC, is meant to develop and enhance connected vehicle technologies, everything from remote vehicle services to infotainment.
“Being connected is at the center of a number of major trends” reshaping both the way vehicles operate, as well as what motorists can do with their vehicles, explained Aeris Chief Marketing Officer Raj Kanaya, in a conversation with TheDetroitBureau.com.
VW is one of five automakers Aeris currently works with. Most of them have in-house software development teams, but they’ve also come to realize there are benefits in partnering with outside companies specializing in connected car technology.
“It’s not in their (automotive) culture to be software companies,” said Kanaya. That said, “We’re partners with (automakers), never competing with them.”
One of the key goals of the Ventic joint venture will be to do more at a lower cost. But the partners also aim to speed up development of new vehicle functions and features and then offer regular updates. According to Kanaya, VW will also take advantage of the Aeris cloud network to improve the performance of its software and services.
Few things are more frustrating to a vehicle owner, said the CMO, than having to wait for a smartphone app – such as Volkswagen’s Car-Net – to act upon a request such as locking or unlocking doors or checking the state of charge of an EV’s batteries.
If anything, cars will need to be even more connected to the internet going forward. More and more manufacturers are adding functions like over-the-air, or OTA, updates allowing them to tweak or even replace onboard software. That also allows a company to add new features and functions without having to send customers back to a dealer.
And, going forward, connected car technology will allow vehicles to talk to each other, as well as a roadside infrastructure – in industry lingo, what’s known as V2V and V2I, or vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity. These capabilities will be critical as more advanced driver assistance systems come to market, with the eventual goal of allowing fully autonomous driving.
VW’s sibling Audi brand already uses an early V2I system in several cities, including Las Vegas, to alert drivers when a traffic light is about to change.
Equally important, car buyers are demanding greater access to streaming infotainment and other services, including not only music but movies and TV shows – as automotive newcomer Byton demonstrated at CES 2020 with its M-Byte battery car featuring a 48-inch video instrument panel.
For its part, “Volkswagen is committed to connected vehicle technology, as we see a future where all cars are 100 percent connected at all times,” said Abdallah Shanti, Global CIO, Volkswagen Brand, and member of the Board at Ventic.
The impact of the Ventic venture will start to show up later this year with the launch of the latest version of VW’s Car-Net. The German automaker will own 51% of the new company, Aeris holding a 49% stake.