In the automotive industry, data will soon be fuel and currency at the same time. (Photo: Volkswagen AG)

Autonomous driving, infotainment and constant updates will require much more powerful but also more standardized microchips and central computers in future cars. At the same time, costs could be reduced and the supply ratio to semiconductors, which had recently been strained due to the supply crisis, could be improved. said Klaus Hofmockel, hardware development manager in the IT department Cariad in the Volkswagen Group. “In the medium term, we want to reduce the number of control units in the vehicle,” he explained. “The goal is to bring all microcontrollers to a standard.” In more well-equipped cars, there are still up to 100 control units.

“We need to find new ways to centralize the computer systems in the car,” Hofmockel said. “In addition to simpler software updates and simpler maintenance, this also makes it easier to manage the various supply chains.” Electronics have been difficult to procure for the automotive industry since the corona crisis, and many manufacturers have been able to produce less than planned.

In order to keep up with competitors like Tesla when it comes to the crucial chip technologies, for example for its own large projects Artemis or Trinity, VW wants to plan the systems from the start. “We’re less concerned about a completely proprietary chip design,” Hofmockel explained, however. “The next step is more about a co-design between car and semiconductor manufacturers – that is, together defining at eye level which systems work best.”

Chips: VW and Bosch work together

VW has chosen Bosch and the American chip group Qualcomm as partners. A stage plan is being pursued, Hofmockel said. “In the collaboration with Qualcomm, we initially use existing chip designs that are integrated into the VW operating system. Later, the development of custom chips will be more in the foreground.

In the next generations, smaller and less high-performance chips will be used. “The car of the future is a high-performance computer on wheels. We need enormous computing power for this at the same time the lowest possible power consumption, “Hofmockel explained.

Security of supply must always be taken into account. “We are at a point where you have to commit to semiconductor manufacturers about five years in advance about what chips you want to buy in the future and in what quantities.” Some procurement relationships with conventional parts suppliers are “rather a phased-out model. Ultimately, it’s about developing skills to understand high-performance semiconductors in depth.”

As a kind of comprehensive IT brand, Cariad must push for the development of self-programmed software and its integration into the electronics of various VW subsidiaries. In the end, there was a problem with the implementation and with the further preparations. CEO Herbert Diess asked for understanding that the development of the division may take a little longer than first assumed.

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