Self-Driving

Volkswagen Group, Microsoft team to build cloud-based automated driving platform

Volkswagen has worked to employ a number of cloud-based technologies across its manufacturing, research, and development spectrum.

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Volkswagen Group and Microsoft are collaborating to build a cloud-based automated self-driving platform using Microsoft Azure. The move has technology implications for the whole of the Volkswagen Group portfolio, which includes Audi, Lamborghini, Volkswagen, Porsche, and Bugatti, among others.

With the Automated Driving Platform (ADP) running on Azure, Volkswagen Group believes that its Car.Software Organization will increase the efficiency of the development of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and automated driving (AD) functions for passenger cars across the company's portfolio.

"As we transform Volkswagen Group into a digital mobility provider, we are looking to continuously increase the efficiency of our software development. We are building the Automated Driving Platform with Microsoft to simplify our developers' work through one scalable and data-based engineering environment. By combining our comprehensive expertise in the development of connected driving solutions with Microsoft's cloud and software engineering know-how, we will accelerate the delivery of safe and comfortable mobility services," said Dirk Hilgenberg, CEO of the Car.Software Organization.

This diagram illustrates how Volkswagen and Microsoft solutions will interact with Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

"This is the next evolution of our foundational work with the Volkswagen Group to enhance their transformation as a software-driven mobility provider," said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president, Cloud + AI at Microsoft. "The power of Microsoft Azure and its compute, data and AI capabilities will enable Volkswagen to deliver secure and reliable automated driving solutions to their customers faster."

Building models for ADAS and AD require large-scale computational capabilities. Petabytes of data from road and weather conditions, as well as obstacle detection and driver behavior all need to be managed for training, simulation, and validation of function. An Apple iPhone 12 has anywhere from 32 to 256 gigabytes of storage. One petabyte of data includes 1 million gigabytes worth of information.

With the move to Azure, Volkswagen Group expects that the development cycles of ADP will be reduced from months to weeks thanks to the system's agility. The companies will start working on ADP immediately and are looking to continuously expand the functional scope of the development platform, according to a release.

Both companies intend to enable technology partners to build tools and services that integrate with the platform to enhance the creation of AD and ADAS solutions.

This announcement follows several others by Volkswagen Group detailing how connected technology solutions are working to maximize efficiency in warehouses via the Volkswagen Automotive Cloud (VAC). Since 2018, Microsoft has been a partner of the company's working with the VAC. In the future, the VAC will be sued to connect autos on the road.

The first VAC-related test fleets are expected to go live in 2021 with production planned for 2022.

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The Ascent got updated styling and fresh tech.

Subaru

Subaru's lineup is full of useful, adventure-ready vehicles, but most are not accommodating for full-size families. The Ascent solved that issue for the automaker a few years ago, and has been a popular family option since. It got a mild update for 2023 with a facelift and new tech. The Ascent comes in five trims: Base, Premium, Onyx Edition, Limited, and Touring. It's expected to go on sale in fall 2022.

The Subaru comes with a new front fascia design that adds a new grille and aggressive styling up front. Lower air ducts help improve aerodynamics, and in higher trims the components come with chrome trim. The SUV's C-shaped taillights got a refresh as well, and now feature a sharper shape to better match the vehicle's overall styling.

2023 Subaru AscentThe new front fascia design is more aggressive than before. Subaru

The Ascent's powertrain remains in place, which is a turbocharged 2.54-liter four-cylinder making 260 horsepower. It sends power to all four wheels through a continuously variable transmission that offers a simulated eight-speed manual shifting mode. Subaru's X-Mode driving mode comes standard, which alters throttle response and other vehicle behavior to maintain traction in slippery conditions. Torque vectoring, which allows the vehicle to shift torque between wheels that need it most, also comes standard.

A new Onyx Edition trim joins the Ascent line for 2022. It brings a standard 11.6-inch touchscreen with navigation, a Harman Kardon sound system, power seats, and a panoramic sunroof. The base Ascent comes with features such as 18-inch wheels, USB inputs, tri-zone automatic climate controls, three rows of seating, and a whopping 19 cupholders. Subaru also offers an optional Cabin Connect system, which allows the driver or front passenger to communicate to people behind them through the stereo using a front-cabin-mounted microphone.

2023 Subaru AscentThe Ascent's interior is available with great tech, such as an 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Subaru

Subaru EyeSight safety equipment comes standard with every Ascent. The system is improved for 2023 with a wider field of vision and new software. A new wide-angle camera joins EyeSight's existing two-camera setup to provide better pedestrian and cyclist detection when approaching intersections. Blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, and lane change assist are available.

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VW purchased the rights to the iconic Scout name and plans to make new EVs under the brand.

Volkswagen

Automakers bring back names and brands from the past all the time, but it's not every day that a major company purchases a brand name specifically for the purpose of reviving it. That's exactly what Volkswagen just did with Scout, the name of an ultra-popular off-road SUV that was built by International Harvester in the 1960s and 1970s.

As for the types of vehicles we'll see from the brand, we currently only have the renders to go on. The pickup truck and SUV both feature throwback styling that is reminiscent of the original Scout shapes. Beefy off-road tires and lifted suspension are the only other clues available in the drawings.

Volkswagen has its own EVs, and its other brands like Audi and Porsche have made significant progress with electric vehicles as well. That said, VW doesn't really have a solid off-road option from any of its brands at the moment, so the Scout purchase opens doors for the automaker in that arena.

The announcement sounds exciting, but we've still got plenty of time to wait before there's a Scout-branded EV on the roads. Volkswagen said the plan is to release vehicles by 2026, but it won't be sitting idle between now and then. The VW ID.4 is still very fresh and the automaker says it will launch a total of 25 new EVs in the U.S. by 2030.

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