Volkswagen’s future cars: Connected, personalized and smarter than ever

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Volkswagen offered three big ideas about where mobility technology will go next. The Volkswagen of the future will have an always-on digital connection with the driver and the world at large. It will come with new, intuitive ways to interact with its passengers. And the technology that makes such steps possible will hit the road sooner than you might expect.

“CES stands for progress and for change, and that’s exactly where our focus is,” said Dr. Frank Welsch, member of the Volkswagen Brand Board of Management and head of technical development. “We are right in the middle of the biggest change in our history.”

Featuring a panel of Volkswagen Group scientists, a customized app and a groundbreaking integration with Amazon’s Alexa voice service, Volkswagen showed a preview of how it plans to remake the relationship between car and driver. Between the demonstrations and the North American debut of the all-electric I.D. Concept car on its stand, Volkswagen’s technology drew a non-stop crowd of gawkers during the show days.

Using technology such as virtual reality goggles, a 3D heads-up display and motion-controlled dashboards, the VW stand allowed visitors to tour a variety of future technologies. One example was a demonstration of an extended Volkswagen Digital Key – software that not only allows a VW owner to use their smartphone to unlock and start a vehicle, but also lets them share access to their Volkswagen with family or friends for specified periods of time.

From left to right: Christian Senger, Head of E-mobility; Dr. Frank Welsch, Member of the Volkswagen Brand Board of Management and Head of Technical Development; and Dr. Volkmar Tanneberger, Head of Electrical and Electronic Development

At a show awash in technology pronouncements from automakers, Volkswagen stood out as the first automaker to integrate Alexa into a vehicle technology – namely, Volkswagen’s Car-Net service, which is already installed in 2.1 million vehicles worldwide. The combination makes it possible for future drivers to pose questions like “Alexa, ask Volkswagen where the nearest gas station is,” or to send commands for their connected homes (“Alexa, turn on the front porch lights.”)

Another hot technology demo was Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit 3D display. By using two screens, the display creates a sense of depth in graphics without the need for special glasses. Additionally, eyetracking technology ensures that the display reduces the amount of information shown when the driver is not looking at it, reducing the cognitive load for the driver.

The sleek, all-electric I.D. Concept wasn’t just there for show. Much of what Volkswagen showcased at this year’s CES will be standard equipment in the I.D. when a production version goes on sale as early as 2020, with a self-driving variant planned for 2025. All in, Volkswagen gave CES visitors a comprehensive look at how their future VW can become a digitally connected part of their lives.