Production

Volkswagen Industrial Cloud development sped up as a cost-savings tool

Volkswagen is looking to save billions over the next five years thanks to cloud app development.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

The buying public is predicted to be buying less vehicles in 2020. The need to trim the fat is a common theme amongst automakers these days. At Volkswagen, the process has already started.

Volkswagen Group is moving forward with a new cloud-based tracking program called the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud. The company linked the first three of its plants in 2019 in Chemnitz, Wolfsburg, and Polkowice (Poland).

"In 2020, we intend to bring the Cloud to 15 further plants," says Gerd Walker, Head of Production, Volkswagen Group.

Volkswagen cloud integration Volkswagen Group will integrate its technology across the world.Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

That list of plants includes those assembling vehicles for the Audi, Seat, Skoda, Porsche, and Volkswagen brands. These include the plants at Brunswick, Emden, Hanover, Ingolstadt, Kassel, Leipzig, Neckarsulm, Salzgitter, Zuffenhausen and Zwickau (all in Germany), Martorell (Spain), Palmela (Portugal), Györ (Hungary), and Mladá Boleslav and Vrchlabi (Czech Republic).

"We are making good progress and significantly forcing the pace," says Roy Sauer, Head of Enterprise and Platform Architecture, Volkswagen Group.

The Industrial Cloud is built on Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Siemens is the integration partner.

As part of their 10-year plan (2016-2025), Volkswagen intestines to boost the productivity of their plants by 30 percent and "our Industrial Cloud will be a key lever for achieving this objective," says Walker.

The first step of the plan included identifying 15 different applications that could be made available as standardized apps for all of the Volkswagen Group plants. Those apps focus on the predictive maintenance of machines and the reduction of reworking on vehicles by using artificial intelligence.

The apps record input from "several hundred thousand machines and plant items" according to Volkswagen. That data is analyzed by the apps. The systems all must be connected manually. Some older machines require a sensor to be installed. VW says, " In the final stage of development, the total quantity of information to be processed each day will correspond to the volume of data from a small town in Germany."

At present, 220 workers are dedicated to the project. By the end of the year, that number is expected to rise to 500.

The systems being developed by Volkswagen are being made available to other companies as part of an open ecosystem. Development will then continue together in partnership with those companies. There is no specific focus on the automotive sector.

According to a release, Volkswagen expects to save several billion euros when the data of all 124 plants can be evaluated in a standardized way. By implementing these first apps, the company is already expected to save €200 million.

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The all-electric Porsche Taycan took to a track in Germany to set a new world record.

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

The record holder for the longest drift with an electric vehicle belongs to the Porsche Taycan. A rear-wheel drive version of the electric sedan took the Guinness World Records title at the Porsche Experience Center in Hockenheimring, near Heidelberg, Germany.

Porsche instructor Dennis Reter completed 210 laps of a 200 meter-long drift circle without the Taycan's front wheels ever pointing in the same direction as the curve. The feat took 55 minutes and covered a total of 42.171 kilometers. Reter's average speed behind the wheel was 46 km/h.

Porsche Taycan Guinness Book of World Records The attempt was logged using experts from various professions, including a professional from the Guinness Book of World Records.Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

"When the driving stability programmes are switched off, a powerslide with the electric Porsche is extremely easy, especially of course with this model variant, which is driven exclusively via the rear wheels," said Retera, "Sufficient power is always available. The low centre of gravity and the long wheelbase ensure stability. The precise design of the chassis and steering allows for perfect control at all times, even when moving sideways".

Retera has an extensive performance driving background. He is currently the Chief Instructor at the Porsche Experience Centre Hockenheimring. Previously he has competed in karting, single seaters, and endurance car races. Still, it was a challenge for him to pilot the car during the record-making experience.

"Nevertheless, it was also very tiring for me to keep my concentration high for 210 laps, especially as the irrigated asphalt of the drift circuit does not provide the same grip everywhere. I concentrated on controlling the drift with the steering – this is more efficient than using the accelerator pedal and reduces the risk of spinning," said Retera.

The attempt took place under the supervision of Guinness World Records official record judge Joanne Brent on the irrigated driving dynamics area of the Experience Center. Brent has five years experience supervising Guinness World Record attempts. "We've had some drift records, but with an electric sports car it's something very special for us too," said Brent. "Here Porsche has done real pioneering work."

Porsche Taycan Guinness Book of World Records The drifting circle at the Porsche Experience Center is 80 meters.Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

Overseeing the event wasn't just an easy spectator sport. Brent documented the record with a number of technical aids and independent experts. Before the attempt, a local land surveyor measured the 80-meter diameter area where the attempt was to take place with millimetre precision. GPS and yaw rate sensors within the vehicle were used for documentation purposes, as was a camera installed on the roof of the track's control tower, with which the record ride was filmed.

Denise Ritzmann, the 2018 and 2019 European drifting campion was responsible for ensuring the car remained permanently drifted during the attempt. "You can see at a glance whether the front wheels are pointing in a different direction to the curve. As long as this is the case, the car is drifting," she said. Together with Brent, she also counted the laps completed during the record attempt.

The Porsche Taycan Drifts into the Guinness World Records www.youtube.com

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Chrysler introduced the Pacifica Pinnacle to its lineup for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Minivans are usually relegated to mommy duty. They get used and abused by children of all ages, and they can take the beating. In the U.S. there are no luxury minivans. The segment is dominated by comfortable but rather utilitarian vehicles that deliver exactly what the average customer is expecting - and there's nothing wrong with that.

But then someone (maybe two someones, or three) at Chrysler had an idea. What if they pushed the Pacifica further into premium territory, offering a near-luxury version of a minivan? Would people buy it? The answer, after one solid day behind the wheel is, "they should."

2020 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle The Pacifica received a new front end for 2021.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica is a facelifted version of the van that debuted for the 2017 model year. It continues to be an attractive model, as far as minivans go. This version of the Pacifica has a more muscular aesthetic, shying away from the elegance of the previous three years. The sides and back are great but I honestly can't decide if I like the front or not, but it does remind me more of the Chrysler 300 than the previous iteration did.

New for 2021, all-wheel drive (AWD) is offered, bringing the Pacifica to the table that's been occupied solely by the Toyota Sienna for a long while. It's the first AWD minivan Chrysler has sold since 2004 and something buyers have been asking for since the Pacifica debuted, according to company insiders.

The Chrysler Pacifica itself is already in a position to go luxury. It's certainly already gained premium model status based solely on the Voyager-Pacifica split which saw Pacifica's lower cost grades become Voyager models, which were then modified for fleet and commercial use. The Voyager also effectively replaced the Dodge Grand Caravan in FCA's lineup as a cost-effective minivan solution.

This left room for the Pacifica Pinnacle, a new top-tier trim level that really shows up for the premium buyer. Not only is the Pacifica Pinnacle's design just as practical as the other models in the lineup, it goes the extra mile with comfort, soft-touch materials, and classy finishes.

2020 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle Pacifica Pinnacle models are the top of the heap for minivans buyers.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Like the revised 2022 Kia Sedona, the Pacifica has a flat dashboard. In the Pacifica, it's anchored by a largest-in-class 10.1-inch touchscreen (the same size as the screens in the rear entertainment system but higher resolution). The lower half of the center stack is tilted toward the console and houses the shifter and climate controls. As tested in the Pinnacle trim, there was an abundance of Piano Black plastic trim with wood accents and real metal surrounds that easily make it the poshest new minivan on sale right now. Quilted leather seats, sueded center row pillows, and Beber floor mats complete the upscale look.

Unlike others in its class, the Pacifica doesn't appear lightweighted for efficiency to the point of cheapness. The doors have a well-weighted feel and close with a commanding thud. The thuds of road travel, surrounding vehicles' music choices, and engine noise are kept at bay thanks to new windows, seals, and insulation.

The minivans seats are comfortable and spacious. Unlike in other minivans, the center console and surrounding storage does not make the front row seats feel isolated from each other.

As tested, the Pacifica Pinnacle was powered by Chrysler's 3.6-liter V6 engine, that is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission and delivers 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It was equipped with AWD, which is standard for the trim level, unless you opt for the hybrid.

2020 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle The new infotainment system in the Pacifica Pinnacle runs smoothly and is a pleasure to use.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

As it does with other vehicle's the Pacifica's AWD automatically acts when a set of conditions are met. With the Pacifica this means it works when it senses a temperature slip, when the electronic stability control is activated, while driving on a rough road, when a grade is steep, if conditions are slippery, when the steering wheel movement sways back and forth, or when there's a full throttle request on the powertrain.

If the AWD system senses that you're driving on a highway, or in conditions that don't require its use, it will deactivate automatically to improve the vehicle's fuel efficiency. This activation and deactivation process is so smooth you probably won't even notice it happening. However, you can feel the wheels engage and demonstrate the system's engineering when the conditions require it.

Having the AWD system doesn't mean that you have to forego Chrysler's Stow 'n Go storage system. Power-sliding rear doors, three-zone climate control (which still blows to circulate air even in the off setting), power first- and second-row windows, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, Stow 'n Go bucket seats with in-floor storage bins, driver's side Stow 'n Assist, and a Stow 'n Go third-row bench seat are all standard equipment. The Pacifica's seats don't have the extensive forward and aft travel the Toyota Sienna does, but the Stow 'n Go seats tumble into the floor to allow for flat loading. The Pacifica Pinnacle offers best-in-class total storage of 227.6 liters.

FCA's new Uconnect 5 infotainment operating system runs in the background of the Pacifica's screens. The system is graphically appealing, is quickly responsive, and features clean design. Though the system could stand to have a head-up display paired with it (Chrysler does not offer one in the Pacifica), the navigation is easy to use and read on the fly, and reroutes rapidly, even in urban settings with tall buildings surrounding the van.

2020 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle The Pacifica Pinnacle's seats are finely upholstered and come with two pillows.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Chrysler has given its Pinnacle model FamCam, an interior monitoring camera similar to what is in the Honda Odyssey, that takes in-cabin camera tech a step further offering the segment-exclusive rear-facing child seat view split-view display, and zoom-to-seat feature, among traditional camera functionality.

The Chrysler Pacifica comes standard with 97 safety features, and in the Pinnacle trim level that number swells to 100.

At over $53,000, the Pacifica Pinnacle is well into premium territory on price tag alone. However, it tops out in similar territory to its rivals, but is far more luxurious. Plus, it has AWD.

Look, it's not an SUV, but if you get around the "I'm not a minivan mom" mindset, the reality you might find is that the Pacifica Pinnacle is just as nice as a luxury three-row SUV, but with more and better functionality for everyday family life. Plus, it drives just as well.

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