VW grabs Blackberry's European R&D lab

July 03, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
With the connected car becoming ubiquitous, even sedate carmakers get moving: Volkswagen has launched an entity dedicated to research and development of automotive connectivity.

Connectivity is one of the fastest growing fields in automotive technology. With Google, Apple and other companies preparing for entering the automotive market, alarm bells start ringing in the C-level of conventional car companies. "New strategies and innovation are necessary", Volkswagen realises. Towards this end, the company dedicates a new subsidiary to R&D activities aiming at connecting vehicles with their environment.

This entity, Volkswagen Infotainment GmbH with headquarters in Wolfsburg (Germany), will dig deeper into the issues and challenges of data exchange between the vehicles and mobile devices such as the car key, music players, and smartphones. In the near future, communication between vehicle and its user's home or office will expand the range of connectivity options, and the same holds true for connections to filling stations, parking lots and traffic infrastructure within the scope of Car-to-X communication.

To enable a fast start for its new infotainment subsidiary, Volkswagen acquired the European R&D lab of ailing smartphone vendor BlackBerry, based in Bochum (Germany).

Like more or less all companies in the traditional automotive industry, Volkswagen increasingly gets under pressure because the typical R&D cycle in the automotive industry lasts between five and seven years whereas in consumer electronics, product generations succeed each other at a pace of months, not years. And younger automotive customers expect their cars to offer similar access to the Internet and their personal virtual environment as they are used to in their living rooms and dens.

"Connectivity will be a decisive characteristic of future car generations", notices Heinz-Jakob Neusser, member of Volkswagen's top management with responsibilities for R&D. "Many customers expect the connected car will open up new dimensions of comfort and driving safety. These expectations are extremely dynamic and global which leads to faster innovation cycles for systems and functions. To master these challenges it is necessary that we extend and strengthen our options for action by additional expertise".

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