The Future Car will be More Software than Hardware

Automologist MAC reports on the future while longing for the past. 

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It would seem that the car drivers of tomorrow are little concerned about horse power and torque and spend more of their time worrying about bandwidth and connectivity. No longer will we differentiate car brands by mechanical excellence or the gaps between panels, but more on the sexy feel of the infotainment system. McKinsey, a well-known consultancy company, believes that just 8% of buyers are what we affectionately term ‘petrolheads’, you know, the people who enjoy driving for the sake of it.

Future drivers, and their passengers, of course, will want to make the most of it and thus will value the features and functions of the infotainment system higher than drivability. Software updates will be more important than remapping your engine to squeeze a few more BHP from it. Newer EV-focused companies like Nio say that they are focussed purely on the user experience. With cars that are festooned with high-tech wizardry and HD screens and out-of-this-world sound systems. For me, my car is also focused on the user experience, but in a much more hairy-chested, white-knuckle testosterone-fuelled sort of manner.

Over at Volkswagen, this transformation to being whisked along in some sort of capable but bland cocoon is all too obvious. Currently, the group operates using just five main “platforms” to build all of its cars. But for the future, this is four too many. Project Trinity is the company’s target to cut this down to just the one platform that will allow a single set of components to be endlessly adaptable enough to be able to make any car within their range, from a VW Polo to a 911. The key component to making the cars different will be the software, according to Thomas Ulbrich. It is this that will change the motoring world as we know it.

You could argue that cars have become little more than smartphones on wheels, more of a transport system for software than a visceral mechanical device. It is the ability and quality and usability of the infotainment system which almost defines a new car, particularly an EV. With all of the software that is being developed to bring us to the age of the autonomous car, it is clear that VW is looking to vertically integrate the company to become a tech company. This will take investment and VW will be building a new two billion Euro factory near to their spiritual home of Wolfsburg to house Project Trinity.

I admit it—I am a dinosaur. I long for the days of my youth when I zipped around the empty country lanes of England in a ’67 Bug, in which we had crammed a 1972 2.3-litre 911 fuel injected, but in a way, there are some advantages to the coming automation. Firstly, those idiots that do not know how to stay in lane will no longer be in charge of a moving vehicle. Also, coming home from the pub will no longer necessitate jumping into a smelly taxi and engaging in inane conversations with the guy behind the wheel.

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