Volkswagen partners with Cariad software company

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Volkswagen’s new Mobility branch will work closely with Cariad software division on new autonomous and electric vehicles.

Volkswagen has formed a dedicated new division for “the strategic action areas of electric mobility and software” led by Thomas Ulbrich, previously the company’s technical development chief.

Heading up the ‘New Mobility’ branch, Ulbrich will be responsible for the continued development of the Volkswagen ID range of electric vehicles, which kicked off with the Volkswagen ID 3 in 2020 and has since included the Volkswagen ID 4 and Volkswagen ID 5 SUVs.

This will be done with a renewed focus on the quality of the VW Group’s software. Ulbrich has also been given a seat on the supervisory board of Cariad, the group’s software division, to “strengthen cooperation” between the firm’s car developers and software team, according to an official statement.

VW boss Thomas Schäfer said: “The goal is to offer our customers top-quality hardware and software that’s very easy to use.

“I am delighted Thomas Ulbrich is taking on this task. As chief technology officer and board member in charge of electric mobility, he has already set important trends for our brand.

He saw the ID 3 and ID 4 from sketch to street and made significant contributions to making electric mobility suitable for widespread use.”

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Software problems across the group, as recently reported by Automotive Daily Network partner Autocar, have been widely reported to be a key reason behind the exit of previous CEO Herbert Diess.

Diess’s bill for spending on new technologies between 2021 and 2025 came to €73 billion (AUD$109bn), 50 per cent of the group’s total investments.

But having bet on software in the ID 3 – boosting connectivity and removing physical interior controls in favour of touchbars and infotainment screen settings – the problems proved disastrous and remain a key criticism of the car.

Following these issues, Ulbrich reportedly established a reputation for troubleshooting: German trade newspaper Handelsblatt said he stepped in “wherever there are problems, wherever production hangs, wherever the software is again not ready on time”.

Schäfer’s effective appointment of Ulbrich as a software tsar is likely to be intended to prevent the recurrence of these problems in the group’s next-generation SSP platform-based cars – for which Ulbrich is also responsible.

Kai Grünitz, previously head of development at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, will take Ulbrich’s position as technical development chief.

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