Swarm Control

| Transport

Swarm Data takes information from vehicles to provide intelligence about the road ahead

Cloud-based software with swarm intelligence keeps VW drivers aligned on the road

Volkswagen has significantly stepped up its activities in automotive software development for the electric ID model within its range. As electrification takes a stronger hold in the industry and driver assistance inching inexorably closer to full autonomy, the software at the heart of new vehicles attains much greater significance.

Now, VW has introduced software generation 3.0, adding a multitude of new functions to the ID model range to improve usability and optimise charging capacity. In addition, VW is using “swarm data” alongside the most recent generation of driver assist systems to take the industry on the next step towards automated driving.

The new software is installed in new vehicles but owners of older ID models will soon be able to take advantage of the same software free of charge via an over-the-air update during the second quarter this year.

According to Thomas Ulbrich, who is responsible for Technical Development at VW, the new ID software 3.0 is an upgrade for the whole range so all owners gain the advantage of the collaborative aspects of swarm data.

Intelligent Driver Assist

The “Travel Assist with Swarm Data” software function is designed to automatically keep the vehicle in the centre of the lane. It adapts to the user’s driving style and can also drive further to the left or right of the lane instead of exactly in the middle. It can also maintain the distance from the vehicle in front and keep to the preset speed limit. The system has predictive cruise control and turning assistance with the vehicle adapting the speed to local speed limits and road layouts (corners, roundabouts, etc.).

With two radars at the rear and using ultrasonic sensors, the “Travel Assist with Swarm Data” can keep an eye on surrounding traffic and, at speeds of 90 kph or more on the motorway, also actively support lane changes if required. When activated, the lane change can be initiated and carried out simply by indicating, the prerequisite for this being that the sensors have not detected any objects in the surrounding area and the capacitive steering wheel can sense the driver’s hands. The vehicle will then steer itself into the desired lane. The driver can intervene at any time and take control of the manoeuvre.

If anonymous swarm data from other Volkswagens is available, “Travel Assist” can also provide support on roads where there is only one lane marking. The vehicle simply aligns itself with a detected lane boundary in order to stay in the lane, for example, on country roads without a central lane marking.

More Parking Control

Parking assistance systems are already available on many cars but VW has added greater function and flexibility to the technology. The system is activated in the parking menu on the in-vehicle display and can be activated at up to 40kps for parallel parking and up to 20kph for bay parking spaces. “Park Assist Plus” searches for a parking space after it has been activated and completes the appropriate parking manoeuvre. The assistant can park autonomously with the help of the environment sensors and take full control of the car, including steering, acceleration, braking and gear changes. For this, the driver stops at the selected parking space, applies the brake and activates the parking process via the start button in the parking menu. “Park Assist Plus” can also assist with parking manoeuvres that have already been started, by completing the process. It can also pull out of parallel parking spaces.

“Park Assist Plus” is also available with a memory function with which the vehicle can be taught up to five different parking manoeuvres. The memory function remembers parking manoeuvres at speeds below 40 km/h with a travel distance of up to 50 metres, for example, for parking in a carport or garage. The driver just has to park once and save the parking manoeuvre. The vehicle can then repeat the learned parking manoeuvre autonomously. The driver simply has to monitor the process.

User Interface

VW has also improved the way the driver interacts with the car, presenting the most important information clearly and safely. This includes the augmented reality head-up display, which projects important information straight into the field of vision of the windscreen both in the close vision field and in the long-distance zone.

Besides showing the optional “Travel Assist” assisted lane change, it also displays new symbols such as roundabouts and information on the distance to the destination. The turn arrows now appear much more integrated into the surroundings than in previous versions of the HUD.

In addition to the remaining distance to the destination, the State of Charge (SOC) is also displayed as a percentage, next to a battery icon that shows the charge level. The updated software also improves optional navigational information. It locates the vehicle precisely in the lane within the system limits, which enables it to recommend changing lanes in good time at motorway junctions and exits. The corresponding indication for the lane change recommendation also appears in the ID light – the strip light under the windscreen. New functions have been added and it now also displays local hazard warnings. This service is based on Volkswagen’s Car2X technology: cars network directly and locally with each other via the WLANp radio standard. This enables them to notify each other of critical traffic situations, ranging from broken-down vehicles to ambulances, in real-time.

Optimised voice control

The voice control function uses pioneering technology and brings performance to a premium level. It recognises voice commands much faster and more precisely, increasing both user-friendliness and driving comfort. Its natural language character makes the car an intelligent conversation partner, according to VW. The customer starts the voice control either by touching the steering wheel or by saying “Hello ID.”. The system replies within a few seconds. In addition, the improved recognition quality of the voice control is now at around 95 percent. The system with its digital microphones also recognises whether the driver or the front passenger is speaking, and follows the instructions accordingly, for example, when it comes to dual-zone air conditioning.

The voice control understands general phrases and colloquial questions and expressions (“Where is the nearest Japanese restaurant in Berlin?” or “I’m too warm”), asks questions where necessary and lets you interrupt. The system responds in two ways – online from the cloud and offline from the information stored in the car. The online process ensures a particularly high recognition rate and quality of results, even when searching for special destinations.

Route Planning

Smart e-route planner. The charging menu, which now appears on the first screen of the large touch display of the ID models, is structured in a more informative and clear way. For long distances, the online route calculator in the navigation system creates a clever multi-stop route, which gets you to your destination as quickly as possible.

It takes traffic and route data into account, as well as the desired SOC (State of Charge) upon arrival at the final destination and interim destination. The charging stops are evaluated dynamically and are based on the output of the charging stations. As a result, the route planning may suggest two short charging processes with high power instead of a single long process with low power.

Digitisation Strategy

As the digitisation of the automobile increases, new interfaces with customers are emerging both inside and outside the vehicle. With its “Accelerate” digitisation strategy, Volkswagen has aligned many processes even more closely with the requirements of a new age – from the early development phase of the cars, to the range of digital services and visits at service partners. Customer needs and feedback are to be incorporated even more heavily into all stages of vehicle and service development throughout the entire life cycle. This is making the integration of software in the vehicle and the digital customer experience of high importance to Volkswagen in the development of its core competencies.

With this strategy, Volkswagen is adapting to the radical changes within the automotive industry early on and consistently. By 2026, the brand will have invested around 18 billion euros in the future topics of e-mobility, hybridisation and digitisation. As part of its global electric strategy, Volkswagen will fully electrify its entire range of models. Volkswagen is aiming to be net-zero climate-neutral by 2050 at the latest.

Jonathan Newell
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