Welcome To The Smarter Car Club, VW 👏

VW: ID.4 The infotainment system also benefits from regular updates.

Welcome to the club, Volkswagen. Looking forward to see ID.x drivers are delighted by SW updates before the summer 2021, despite SW delay news. To be fair, only people have been through the first production for a new SW platform know how tough & craze a crunch time can be. So kudos for the great milestone & getting the ID fleet smarter. Especially 3K “dogfood car” is pretty impressive 👍. Just try to image how to update them manually weekly 😱.

BTW, I would love to learn more from anyone has the first hand experience on that. Even better if anyone can share the lessons learned to the world, so others & especially next generations may stand on your shoulder 🙏. That’s why I’m writing down my observations, crazy thoughts & random extrapolations.

electrek.co: VW ID.3 has ‘massive’ SW problem as company begins year of EV introductions, 2019/12/19

Firmware or Software?

To pursue “smarter car”, first your mindset has to be very different from the established “feature car” thinking. As Code, on wheels puts it: even car makers still think about “firmwares”, Tesla is already playing the SW first game, like “a Silicon Valley company”. In another word, you can not just “ship it & forget it” , but to embrace a connected service model. In this line, yes it’s how most Tech companies work. Therefore, I admire VW has the courage to teach an elephant to dance — the Tech style 🦾.

One more trick: remember SW is a “talent-intensive” industry? The trick is how to recruit top talents without them to worry if to switch out of Tech. As far as I know, people joining Tesla don’t have such concern. How about you? Oh of cause 4DWW may help recruiting too 😉.

Software As A Service

Recently, one colleague mentioned about “the real SW”. Even I joked about: there is no such thing, because any code is “real SW” by a broader definition. Whereas what SW really matters maybe a better question. For that my top heuristic is: how many people are still using it. Which separates “service providers” from device makers, who focus on selling more new devices.

For example: Toyota chief says Apple should steel for 40 years customer services to enter Auto industry as WSJ reported. As a device maker, it’s indeed a very long term commitment & high cost burden. Whereas as a service provider, it can be a good opportunity or “job security”, as I typically joke it 😅. Of cause you still need to figure out a sustainable business model. There is no doubt top car makers lead on the device service business. But SAAS is not a game from them yet.

On this line, Apple just can not afford to miss this big digital experience frontier. Because if it misses, not only the future of the Cash Cow, e.g. iPhone may be inhibited. But also be too late to expand Apple service business, the Starts later.


But How… To Measure


Yep, those are easy to say, but how to achieve that really? I glade you ask, but not so quick. That’s talk about how to “measure success” first. Because you can not improve something you can not measure, at least continuously & effectively.

Accelerate is a great book on DevOp: Even it focuses on SW service Development & Operations, there are many inspirations can be retooled for smarter car makers or even any smart device makers. In short: to accelerate the transformation toward SAAS, you should focus on 4 metrics: delivery lead time, deployment frequency, mean time to restore service & change fail rate.

To be honest, it’s great to have more respectable opponents, like Tesla, VW and more braver & smarter one. For me, it’s less about short term competitions. It’s more about each of player continuous pushing the envelope. Game on! Wish the best platforms win.

Full Disclosure

The opinions stated here are my own, not those of my company. They are mostly extrapolations from public information. I don’t have insider knowledge of those companies, nor an EV expert.



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Sam Lin

A Taiwanese lives in Silicon Valley since 2014 & has random opinions on some stuff. The opinions shared here are my own, not those of companies I work for.