Volkswagen Golf Delay Attributed to Software Glitches, Internet Connectivity
Earlier this year, Volkswagen announced that the launch of the Mk8 Golf would be delayed until 2020 as it continues working on the vehicle’s upgraded tech features. VW intends to launch the car with an entirely digital cockpit, even on base models, alongside perks like permanent internet connectivity and advanced driving aids. It’s all part of a bid to make the Golf even more appetizing when compared to upscale rivals than it already is.
At the time, VW said certain technical issues needed to be ironed out before the next-gen Golf was ready to hit the road, but was adamant that software gremlins were not to blame. The issue came down to the advanced nature of the new technologies, not glitches.
Never take an automaker’s word for it.
While it’s not clear if VW was aware of the claimed glitches when it announced the delay last month, Automotive News reports that the company’s stalled launch of the next Golf was indeed due to software goofs.
“We think it’s better to come early next year with a full throttle offensive. It doesn’t have anything to do with production. It’s a sales decision since you don’t try to put cars under the Christmas tree when no one is paying attention,” said VW brand’s sales and marketing chief, Juergen Stackmann, last month.
However, Stackmann was singing a different song this week.
“We’ve never hid the fact that software, an area of extreme importance for products in the future, is a serious challenge for us,” Stackmann explained. “We have our homework ahead of us, and the teams are under heavy pressure.”
From Automotive News:
Pressed about the exact cause of the software glitches, Stackmann said a lot of the problems faced by engineers were because of the new Golf’s ability to update its software over the air. This also makes it potentially vulnerable to hackers.
Previously the only way someone could gain access to key functions of a car was directly tapping into the controller network, or CAN bus.
As hooking cars up to the internet opens them up to all sorts of new dangers, we’re not inclined to slight VW for making sure its system is fully functional. While the issue could have been avoided by simply abandoning connectivity, we all know that’s not something any automaker wants to consider. Most manufacturers think that always-online vehicles will open up new revenue streams via digital commerce, in-car advertising, and driving-data procurement (which can be analyzed for mobility projects or sold off as marketing data). It’s a brave new world, with new potential for carmakers to accrue capital in new and interesting ways.
“Due to their online connectivity there is a lot more software especially in the area of security, which is a real challenge since the car is no longer a closed ecosystem,” Stackmann continued. “A customer might get angry if their smartphone doesn’t work, but you do a debug the next day. A car is different — if something goes wrong it can become critical, so the security requirements are far higher.”
Over-the-air updates provide additional concerns for VW in terms of homologation. Stackmann said adding content to a vehicle digitally after sale is likely to befuddle some regulatory agencies, and the issue is only complicated by the Golf’s role as a global vehicle. Even though Tesla has issued OTAs for years, many important markets require that a manufacture physically demonstrate that a vehicle’s components are safe.
Now imagine if the Golf, which outsells Tesla by a huge margin and exists in more markets, tried to mimic the EV-focused firm’s remote brake update from last year. Volkswagen could probably get away with it in North America. Europe and most of Asia, however, would have likely have something to say if the company neglected to test the system in advance.
“You’re adding content to a vehicle afterwards, and this is an area where we are working together with the type approval agencies to define these processes. It is new for them as well,” Stackmann commented.
The Golf’s debut, originally for the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, will be set aside to give Volkswagen’s electrified I.D. hatchback more time to shine. Still, the company says the vehicle is on course for a February 2020 launch. North American availability isn’t expected until 2021.