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I think the article (and perhaps VW management) is conflating two independent issues. There's no fundamental reason why an EV needs to be "more connected" than an ICE car. It happens that Tesla brought those two things together and has been praised by some for doing it, but they're not inextricably linked. You can make a perfectly fine EV that doesn't get over-the-air updates or drive itself or move all functions to a touch screen.

Frankly, that's what I think Volkswagen should be focused on, particularly for the European market. There's going to be a tremendous demand for affordable EVs as the regulators continue to push toward looming bans on new ICE cars. VW's brands are well-positioned to fill that role, and the regulators don't care whether the car updates itself. But instead they bit off more than they could chew with this project. The real meat of EV success is moving away from trying to cram EV components into an ICE platform and toward dedicated EV platforms. That should have been the focus of the ID project, instead of getting hung up on tech stuff that's not central to the EV mission.

-Andrew L
I think you are right on the money. VW tried to do too much at the same time with ID.3 and a lot of it is because "Tesla did it this way".

Tesla needed OTA update because it didn't have dealers in every zip code in the US. It was an imperative based on lack of scale and resources to build a service network from day one. But traditional car companies somehow didn't grasp that they have an actual competitive advantage over Tesla... their cars can be serviced by a nationwide (or in the case of Europe, continent-wide) network of dealers.
 

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I think some of you are conflating ‘software’ with ‘tech features’.

Motor control and BMS and charging and motor/inverter/battery cooling and climate control and electrical architecture and ancillary systems programming/validation/refinement is all exceptionally challenging, even just within those independent components. To get all of those independent components to seamlessly communicate together as a coherent system? Exponentially more difficult.

That’s even without driver assistance, passenger touchscreen interfaces, or OTA capabilities.

Where VW (and many other legacy manufacturers) are struggling is that they are outsourcing all manner of the above components from contracted suppliers and trying to make them talk the same language. It is never going to be as seamless, efficient, easily modified/updated, or repeatable as a clean-sheet design where a single manufacturer retains all of the control over not just the hardware, but the software that tells the hardware what to do.

That, right there, is why Tesla will remain relevant, even with hundreds of billions of investment from other automakers. Not only do they have a decade+ headstart, they have trillions of data points, and the means to interpret, refine, and update the software accordingly without ever translating it to work with an outside system or component engineered by someone else.
Bingo.

Legacy automakers have increasingly relied on tier 1 suppliers, including for their technology, instead of developing in-house software/hardware teams, as this has capped R&D and production cost. What VW has faced with the Golf 8 and I.D.3/4 launch is the ugly reality that in the massively complex world of building a connected vehicle, this model doesn't work. It meant the launch of the Golf 8 was buggy, and the I.D.3 still hasn't delivered reliability and a full feature set. (Both the I.D.3 examples reviewed by Harry's Garage and Carwow's had issues while filming.)

This is where Tesla, who approached technology R&D from a totally different perspective--that of a tech company and not a manufacturer--has been able to deliver a robust vehicle, the performance, efficiency, and features of which can be continually improved.
 

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But a lot of that isn't the "EV" part of it. It's the "quasi-self-driving" part of it. And, to some extent, the "put everything on the touchscreen" part of it.

An EV doesn't have to be self-driving, and it doesn't need to have everything controlled through a touchscreen. All the regular car stuff, can be done the regular car way.
Some people will want more affordable, basic EVs where the human driver is 100% responsible for the dynamic driving task. But such vehicles will have a short shelf life in the near term, until maybe 2030. The developed world is moving as quickly as it can towards Level 4 driving automation. Soon it will be as ubiquitous as the smart phone in your pocket today.
 

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I think you are right on the money. VW tried to do too much at the same time with ID.3 and a lot of it is because "Tesla did it this way".

Tesla needed OTA update because it didn't have dealers in every zip code in the US. It was an imperative based on lack of scale and resources to build a service network from day one. But traditional car companies somehow didn't grasp that they have an actual competitive advantage over Tesla... their cars can be serviced by a nationwide (or in the case of Europe, continent-wide) network of dealers.
But no one, and I mean NO ONE, wants to go to the dealer for any reason whatsoever. So having a dealer network isn’t really the advantage you think it is. Instead, dealers are an anachronism that should go away. Would you tolerate having to physically go to the Apple store every 8 weeks for a software update? Bug fixes, new features and safety recalls are much faster and easier to manage and deploy with OTA software updates.
 

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Aside from the innovative motor in the rear of the Model 3/Y, all of Tesla's inverters (converting DC battery power to AC) are key to its efficiency and power. That's partly hardware, but much more so the software which controls it. That's why it's not just a matter of sticking in an electric motor and some batteries and off you go. The mainstream mfrs have been giving consumers either range or power/accel/speed, but not both in the same manner that Tesla has been doing.

Here's a video with a basic, but helpful explanation of it (some of the stuff if a little overblown, e.g. the "replacement" for an LSD, but otherwise it's a good basic explanation).


and the second link is at the time stamp where it explains (again a super basic explanation) how the inverter's role impact regenerative braking (which obviously helps with range and one-pedal driving).

 

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Bingo.

Legacy automakers have increasingly relied on tier 1 suppliers, including for their technology, instead of developing in-house software/hardware teams, as this has capped R&D and production cost. What VW has faced with the Golf 8 and I.D.3/4 launch is the ugly reality that in the massively complex world of building a connected vehicle, this model doesn't work. It meant the launch of the Golf 8 was buggy, and the I.D.3 still hasn't delivered reliability and a full feature set. (Both the I.D.3 examples reviewed by Harry's Garage and Carwow's had issues while filming.)

This is where Tesla, who approached technology R&D from a totally different perspective--that of a tech company and not a manufacturer--has been able to deliver a robust vehicle, the performance, efficiency, and features of which can be continually improved.
I think you may be oversimplifying the situation. I think VW does realize the ID3 approach isn't ideal and fully intends to create a full stack operating system. They've actually already said so with their leaders speaking of Linux based VW.OS but admitted it won't be fully integrated across the VW model line until 2025. I think what's interesting is that VW is trying to do this all in-house whereas other manufacturers are still partnering up with tech companies like Benz. Everyone seems to be eager to give up a peace offering to the market until they can roll out their full fledged efforts.

But no one, and I mean NO ONE, wants to go to the dealer for any reason whatsoever. So having a dealer network isn’t really the advantage you think it is. Instead, dealers are an anachronism that should go away. Would you tolerate having to physically go to the Apple store every 8 weeks for a software update? Bug fixes, new features and safety recalls are much faster and easier to manage and deploy with OTA software updates.
Right, which is precisely why even ICE vehicles are getting OTA updates.
 

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I agree with the above. They bet their chips on software and lost, when they should have focused on scaling drivetrain production. Slick software updates can come later in different models. Even as an EV buyer, I would not expect VW ID cars to be all updatable with new games and fart noises. I'll say this again. The winners in a few years are going to be the Koreans. No fuss EVs that just work for reasonable prices. Some consumers really just want an electric Golf or Sonata and not a German or Korean tesla. And that's ok for now

Saying that people want a EV Golf is just like Blackberry saying that people wanted smartphones with physical keyboard. It might work for now, but it won´t in 5 years.

VW is doind the right thing by trying to make an EV with a complex and connected software now, so they can make mistakes and learn from it while few people own EVs, because when EVs do become maistream all those glitches and problems will have to be sorted out.
 

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Motor control and BMS and charging and motor/inverter/battery cooling and climate control and electrical architecture and ancillary systems programming/validation/refinement is all exceptionally challenging, even just within those independent components. To get all of those independent components to seamlessly communicate together as a coherent system? Exponentially more difficult.
You're not wrong about this, but modern ICE cars already have these kinds of integrated computer systems. The EV control stuff is a new world from an engineering standpoint, so there's a lot of new work to be done, but it shouldn't be a totally foreign concept to any company that's been building cars in the modern era. My point was that developing both the EV powertrain (including software controls) and the vehicle structure to house it efficiently is enough work to keep a company busy for a few years. There wasn't a real need to add Tesla-level user-facing tech to the project scope, especially if they were aiming for lower pricing that would be considered mass-market in Europe.

Where VW (and many other legacy manufacturers) are struggling is that they are outsourcing all manner of the above components from contracted suppliers and trying to make them talk the same language. It is never going to be as seamless, efficient, easily modified/updated, or repeatable as a clean-sheet design where a single manufacturer retains all of the control over not just the hardware, but the software that tells the hardware what to do.
The irony here is that the Big Three used to be vertically-integrated more like Tesla is, with their captive suppliers like Delco, Rochester and Huntsville Electronics. Then in the '80s and '90s when Detroit was struggling, the MBAs convinced them to spin off those divisions into independent suppliers which would compete for business and drive down costs. In the current environment that may not have been such a bright idea.

-Andrew L
 

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But no one, and I mean NO ONE, wants to go to the dealer for any reason whatsoever. So having a dealer network isn’t really the advantage you think it is. Instead, dealers are an anachronism that should go away. Would you tolerate having to physically go to the Apple store every 8 weeks for a software update? Bug fixes, new features and safety recalls are much faster and easier to manage and deploy with OTA software updates.
Part of the problem, however, is that the easy accessibility of OTA updates, coupled with the "hurry up to market" mentality that Tesla has fully embraced from Tech Culture, means that you are less likely to have rock solid code when you walk out the door into production. You're going to have more bugs, safety issues and potentially lost performance because of the speed and lack of real consequence for "fixing it in post."

How many vehicle software updates did Chevy need to make in the last ten years for, say, the Cruze? How many for the Cavalier in the 90s?
How many has Tesla (admitted) to issuing for the Model 3 since it's debut?

I am very much in favor of cramming technology into modern vehicles; I think it makes them better vehicles.
But vehicles are not cell phones, and we shouldn't embrace the "fix it in the field later" mentality of consumer electronic devices when it comes to cars. A recall, or an OTA update for safety or bug fixes, should hurt for a company to issue.
 
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^ there’s been more than a few instances of recall-based (or even optional) code updates in new cars by legacy automakers. Tesla isn’t the only one guilty of pushing things to market prior to having a fully refined product.

only difference is the corporate optics/customer experience of having to schedule a visit to a dealer for a mandatory recall and waste time out of your day in a service bay waiting room vs waking up one morning with your car having already completed an OTA update overnight with no effort required.
 

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Software updates, over-the-air or otherwise, can fix glitchy infotainment and user interface issues and the like, but they cannot fix problems with stuff made of metal, plastic, and glass. Among the last several recall notices that I remember for vehicles that I own, exactly none pertained to software updates, all pertained to stuff that software could not do a thing about. Coolant hoses that might leak (and EVs still have cooling systems!), reflectors that weren't reflective enough, headlights that permitted an aiming adjustment that FMVSS did not allow, front seat headrests that were wrong in some way (although I can't tell the diff between the original ones and what they supposedly replaced them with), wheel rims prone to cracking, missing warning labels, etc.
 

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^i appreciate your feedback. physical hardware or software based in nature, recalls are inconvenient. Out of curiosity, which manufacturers have subjected you to aforementioned recalls?
 

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In order of mention: Yamaha, Yamaha, VW, FCA, Kawasaki, and both FCA and Honda. Not all of those recalls were actually done. FCA sent me a label in the mail that I was supposed to affix to the spare tire tool compartment myself.
 

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Part of the problem, however, is that the easy accessibility of OTA updates, coupled with the "hurry up to market" mentality that Tesla has fully embraced from Tech Culture, means that you are less likely to have rock solid code when you walk out the door into production. You're going to have more bugs, safety issues and potentially lost performance because of the speed and lack of real consequence for "fixing it in post."

How many vehicle software updates did Chevy need to make in the last ten years for, say, the Cruze? How many for the Cavalier in the 90s?
How many has Tesla (admitted) to issuing for the Model 3 since it's debut?
I completely agree here. Even outside the automotive field...I've worked as a programmer and I hate the level of cultural rot caused by the "ship it now and debug it later" mentality. So many cascading problems can be avoided if code is planned thoughtfully and tested properly before rolling it out. Unfortunately the disdain for that careful approach is starting to spread beyond low-impact applications to important things like vehicles. I used to use aviation as an example of an industry that understood this issue, but after the 737-MAX debacle, I think the disease has gotten into them as well.

-Andrew L
 

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All this tech crammed into controlling every aspect of a cars functionality will not age well.
 

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Where VW (and many other legacy manufacturers) are struggling is that they are outsourcing all manner of the above components from contracted suppliers and trying to make them talk the same language.
There's literally a standard for this (look up AUTOSAR) but it's slow to change, and complex.

But that's how things get scaled "easily" at a lot of the (especially European) oems, that sell the same sausage different length in sedan, wagon, suv, cuv form.

This was passing around work a while back to some chuckles, but seems relevant to this topic though I'm not sure this guy has a software background which in my opinion and based on my observations at traditional oems causes a lot of issues when senior leadership is forced to think in ways they've not had to before.


He's also wrong to some extend regarding no one else having central controllers. Which sort of proves the point about leadership understanding.

Software ~= hardware, and the leadership needs aren't the same, and rarely are transferable. I don't need someone who came up in body-in-white telling me how to do software development ... :D

But it's an interesting discussion nonetheless, and there's not one single reason a lot of oems have been stumbling trying to release worthwhile EVs.
Don't underestimate the impact of branding and the cult of personality on helping folks look past some of the more glaring tesla foibles
 

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I completely agree here. Even outside the automotive field...I've worked as a programmer and I hate the level of cultural rot caused by the "ship it now and debug it later" mentality. So many cascading problems can be avoided if code is planned thoughtfully and tested properly before rolling it out. Unfortunately the disdain for that careful approach is starting to spread beyond low-impact applications to important things like vehicles. I used to use aviation as an example of an industry that understood this issue, but after the 737-MAX debacle, I think the disease has gotten into them as well.

-Andrew L
It’s called agile software development. And the engineers will never win against the ruthless business managers who decide what products to release and when. Competition is too fierce and the rewards too great to not take risks. Unfortunately, the public bears the cost of those decisions.
 

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All this tech crammed into controlling every aspect of a cars functionality will not age well.
On the one hand, one could argue that’s by design. Planned obsolescence. On the other hand, one could argue that Level 4 BEVs with OTA update capability will have a longer service life with fewer interruptions than just about any other car then and now. Remote health monitoring and diagnostic capabilities, automatic scheduling of service, and the car driving itself to a repair shop (if possible) or automatic retrieval via automated tow truck or even mobile repair units that come to you will make it easier than ever to coordinate service and minimize disruption.
 

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It’s called agile software development. And the engineers will never win against the ruthless business managers who decide what products to release and when. Competition is too fierce and the rewards too great to not take risks. Unfortunately, the public bears the cost of those decisions.
I think it's more of a cultural issue than a dollars-and-cents issue. Often it ends up taking more time to fix the half-baked junk that launched prematurely and deal with the mountain of user complaints than it would have taken to do the work correctly in the first place. It's become almost like a macho thing..."I don't need a helmet to drive that race car", etc. Then you fly an airliner into the ground and it's not cool anymore. Eventually there will be enough high-profile incidents that companies will start to take code quality seriously again, but it's fairly stupid that we let a bunch of dot-com web programmers drag the engineering field down this path.

-Andrew L
 

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TLDR: WSJ's podcast on this article (not sure if there's a paywall):
 
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