By on July 15, 2020

Volkswagen Group plans to transfer software development leadership to its Audi division following an embarrassingly high number of technical glitches on some of its upcoming products.

With the industry committed to making sure tomorrow’s cars more closely resemble today’s phones, some automakers have decided to do the brunt of their coding in-house. VW decided to increase the share of its software it’s responsible for — targeting 60 percent of all the code that goes into its products by 2025 — but problems cropped up en route to its destination.

Reports surfaced in 2019 that the company was having serious issues with its software. This delayed Audi EVs (though battery supply shortages were also claimed) before doing the same for Volkswagen’s ID.3 electric. The brand ultimately decided to launch that model lacking some functions with the promise that they’d be fixed later. But then the software headaches started affecting the Mk8 Golf, forcing the manufacturer to temporarily halt deliveries.

As everyone wondered exactly how the hell this could happen, staff noted that VW’s aggressive technological push forced it to rush some of the new software. It’s also encountered issues in procuring enough coders to turn things around in a timely manner after problems revealed themselves. “This is no longer a laugh,” an anonymous staffer told Süddeutsche Zeitung in March. “The [ID.3] is far from ready for the market.”

The EV will now ship in September with incomplete software, though introductory “limited editions” have already begun delivery. Regardless of which version customers purchased, VW has said neither will have all their features activated until later this year.

Depending on who you ask, Volkswagen Group’s software problems are either a horrible nightmare that runs the risk of killing the company or a manageable hiccup that will only slow the launch of a handful of vehicles. We’re inclined to believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The company certainly has demonstrated that there’s an issue, though we can’t say it’s untenable until we see how long it takes to fix the ID.3 and Golf.

Hysterically, Group CEO Herbert Diess claimed VW’s software would help it compete against Tesla in the world of electric vehicles during the most recent Frankfurt Motor Show.

“In the long run, I think we might have a bit of an advantage because of scale. On the hardware side, there is probably not so big a difference because they are are also have a dedicated electric platform and they’re quite big already for an EV manufacturer,” he said. “But when it comes to the next big thing, which is software, Tesla is strong in software — but software really is a volume game. If you do software, you have to use ten million devices, not one million.”

That’s to become largely Audi’s concern moving forward.

“The center of gravity for software development will move from Wolfsburg to Ingolstadt,” Diess said at a virtual conference hosted by PwC in Germany, per Reuters.

The company is also rumored to replace Christian Senger, an ex-BMW manager who currently runs VW’s new Car.Software unit. Senger was brought in to help the company spruce up its corporate image after nefarious software drove the 2015 emissions scandal, and is believed to be taking serious flak at present.

Maybe the company should bring those Dieselgate coders back in. Sure, they may have broken the law by intentionally tricking regulators, but their illegal software worked as intended.

[Image: Volkswagen Group]

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9 Comments on “VW Group Hands Software Development Over to Audi...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “software really is a volume game”

    No, hardware is a volume game. Coding takes the same effort regardless of volume, but its cost amortizes better with high volume.

    The effects of their software screwup should not be minimized. Every vehicle today is very code-dependent, no matter ICE or EV. For example, Toyota’s drive-by-wire system received a lot of scrutiny during the WOT crash debacle.

  • avatar

    Someone at VW hasn’t read “The Mythical Man Month” by Fred Brooks.
    “Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.”

  • avatar

    As a hardware engineer, when you are asked to do something different or unusual or challenging, your first answer is always “No” – and about 70% of the time, this answer sticks.

    As a software engineer, when you are asked to do something different or unusual or challenging, you are very rarely allowed to answer “No” – so you mumble something and let the clock run for ~24 months and see if they ask again.

  • avatar

    I do wonder how much of all these issues arise from a traditional hardware oriented organizations’ tendency to look down on software engineering.

    When a great hardware design is always your answer to your problem, typing these “magical codes” into the computers to make things work feel like cheating. I mean, VW has hardly mastered their electronics after all these years, preferring mechanical solutions for a long time. How much love do they have for software?

    I’m sure all these managers think throwing more software engineers to fix the issues is like adding more monkeys to type their Shakespeare.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Coders are like the assembly line workers. They are typically just implementing what the engineers have asked for utilizing (in a functional shop anyway) best practices and standardized procedures per that entity.

    While a coder that is hung up on how elegant their code looks can foul this up, typically when stuff like this happens it is because the software engineers and the business folks didn’t communicate and the coders are implementing poorly designed software. Poor testing and validation further screws it up. I’d imagine the programming shops within VW have had a high churn rate as well. Just a recepie for disasters.

    But if the coders are the ones fouling it up, your senior engineers and managers aren’t doing their jobs. That’s not far off blaming the line workers screwing the powershift transmission together for the faults it has. Sometimes the problem is at that level, but typically problems at that level are symptomatic of higher level issues.

  • avatar

    Until recently German computers were hardwired using vacuum valves and rotating wheels, disks and belts. E.g. Enigma machine or VW Golf. I also never met German SW engineer in Silicon Valley. But I never was in Germany either. Are Germans aware that more effective way of implementing “thinking machines” is by using silicon microchips made in Taiwan instead of mechanical contraptions they used in V1 rockets or VW Golf?

  • avatar

    A company with some of the most unnecessarily complicated and unfathomable engineering, with no regard for real-world maintainability, handing engineering over to their subsidiary who’s even worse? What could possibly go wrong?

    Cars should not be designed by people whose entire professional education is based on technology that, in the event of failure, can simply be restarted without consequence.

  • avatar

    If front wheels are moving and rear wheels aren’t and steering wheel is stationary, turn on emission control.

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