Volkswagen is opening a gateway to the future at the CES in Las Vegas. The time machine: a zero-emission vehicle – the avant-garde BUDD-e minivan. The first model based on an equally new and progressive Volkswagen technology matrix for electric vehicles. The van's range: up to 233 miles (USA / EPA estimated real-world driving range) or 533 kilometers (Europe / NEDC). And BUDD-e also has charisma with its iconic design. A Volkswagen that breathes the brand's history, while simultaneously setting its sights on the immediate future with precise clarity. And it is as networked as possible, making BUDD-e a mobile interface between the world on board and the outside world. The car in the Internet of Things. With access to your home – Smart Home – or your workplace. Equipped with next generation Infotainment to turn travel into an interactive experience. BUDD-e offers a completely new method of operation and information processing. Everything is more intuitive than ever before. Touch and gesture control merge seamlessly; switches and buttons are a thing of the past; individual displays blend into large infotainment panels; analog mirrors are replaced by digital screens. The matrix of these new, interactive infotainment and operating systems gently launches passengers aboard the Volkswagen concept car forward – to the end of the decade.
Volkswagen demonstrates how much travel will have changed by the time we are in or around the year 2019 at the CES on board the BUDD-e. Four friends will set off on an imaginary journey in the car from San Francisco to Nevada to go to a legendary American festival on what is to be an interactive journey into the world of tomorrow. A world that will most probably have become the world of the present in January 2016 in Las Vegas with the technologies of the future presented in the BUDD-e. These technologies include Volkswagen's new conceptual matrix for electric vehicles: the Modular Electric Drive Kit (MEB), with which it may, for the first time, become possible for the pure electrical range of large series models to match that of today's gasoline-powered cars by the end of the decade. In parallel to this, the time it takes to charge the batteries should have been cut to about 30 minutes (80 percent capacity) by then. This would mark the breakthrough of electric cars.
With the BUDD-e Volkswagen has developed a minivan that is more thoroughly networked with its surroundings, as part of the Internet, than any car before – the most communicative car of its time. Many of this Volkswagen's features are different. It was the first concept car developed by the Volkswagen Group to be designed on the basis of the new Modular Electric Drive Kit (MEB). This architecture heralds a fundamental change in electric cars and thus for the car in general, because the MEB throws all fossil fuel ballast of the present overboard, having been designed specifically for electric cars. And this means that the body design, the interior design, the package and the drive characteristics of the electrically powered Volkswagen will change significantly. Advantages of the MEB at a glance:
The BUDD-e being presented at the CES in Las Vegas is, as outlined, the first Volkswagen to have the DNA of the new MEB. The MEB results in a drivetrain architecture that is specifically tailored to the use of compact electric motors and high-performance batteries. The flat and space-saving battery with an energy content of 92.4 kWh is integrated into almost the entire vehicle floor of the BUDD-e. It powers two electric motors, which drive both of the axles.
How the MEB results in entirely new package perspectives is illustrated in the BUDD-e by the arrangement of the heating and air conditioning unit: The system has been completely integrated in the front end of the car. This arrangement enlarges the space available in the front end of the car, perfects the air quality (thanks to bigger and better filters) and at the same time results in excellent acoustics (due to a reduction in fan noise).
The minivan, which is 181.0"/4,597 mm long, exploits the enclosed space perfectly, true to the MEB concept. The BUDD-e is 76.4"/1,940 mm wide and 72.2"/1,835 mm high, putting it between Volkswagen's Touran and Multivan T6 vans, both of which have been very successful in Europe, in terms of length; although the concept car is wider than these two well-known production models. It also shares the handy tailgate with these two models as well as featuring the Multivan's sliding door on the right-hand side. Due to its generous width and a relatively long wheelbase (124.1"/3,151 mm) with very short overhangs (27.3"/694 mm at the front and 29.6"/752 mm at the back) the BUDD-e's proportions are very taut. A newly developed rear steering system results in a very tight turning circle of 37.7 ft/11.5 m and improved dynamic response.
The BUDD-e's designers focused on the clear aesthetics of functionality. It is not least because of this that this Volkswagen van is characterized by an iconic charm – functional, progressive, clean, powerful and likeable, all at the same time. The concept car has a two-tone color scheme, with the body painted in "Nevada White" below the window edge and the roof painted in golden "Phoenix Copper".
The architecture of the new Modular Electric Drive Kit (MEB) completely changes the package of the car, which is a tall order for the interior designers, who had the opportunity to create a space that is hardly restricted by the drive technology at the front of the car. This is precisely what the BUDD-e demonstrates, because the conventional dashboard along with all its knobs and switches have been entirely done away with. It just isn‘t necessary any more in the future of electromobility. Instead, the design team arranged the instruments – the next-generation human-machine interface – as a display that looks like it is floating in mid air, like a tablet floating in the space in front of the driver. But it isn't just the driver's workplace that is characterized by lightness, but all of the interior surfaces, which are immersed in blue, silver and white.
The zero-emission van configured for the CES is a four-seater due to its special technical specifications. The interior style of the BUDD-e is characterized by the completely new and progressive human-machine interface – the display and control concept of the future. The design is extremely clean and intuitive to use. The whole technical architecture of the infotainment and control systems as well as their design makes a quantum leap akin to the jump from mobile phones with numerical keypads to smartphones or, more recently, from analog watches to smartwatches. Revolution instead of evolution.
The fact is: the traditional distinction between the electronic instrument cluster in front of the driver and the screen of the infotainment system in the center console is dissolving in the interface design of the BUDD-e, Volkswagen. Heading towards comprehensive digitization and individualization of the driver's workplace to become a large panel, these two areas are merging to form a single information hub.
Everything is operated intuitively by gesture control, touch screen (displays and touch slider) or voice control. The driver can often choose between the various control modes (multi-modal interaction), and that is intuitive, too, because – despite the multitude of functions – Volkswagen will continue to adhere to the maxim that information and controls ought to be self-explanatory. For example, in the concept car you simply need to say "Hello BUDD-e" to activate voice control. What is more, the system also offers completely natural speech interaction. For example, if you simply ask it to "turn the heat up a bit, please", the car responds appropriately right away. Last but not least, the system is able to locate the passenger who spoke to it and react accordingly. If, for instance, someone sitting on the left in the back says, "it's too hot here", BUDD-e could immediately lower the temperature in that passenger's zone. The Active Info Display and the head unit (HU) in detail:
The BUDD-e's user-programmable instrument cluster is an evolution of the Active Info Display that was first launched by Volkswagen in 2015. Centrally positioned, right in front of the driver is a 12.3-inch curved display with a surface consisting of three individually configurable sections.
The head unit, the part of the new HMI that can also be seen and used by the front-seat passenger and the passengers in the back, is located in the middle of the dashboard. As already outlined above, the 13.3-inch display is linked to the Active Info Display, both graphically and by software. In the basic layout the head unit displays the extended 3D navigation map (including buildings). The top level of the surface itself consists of user-assignable tiles that are available in two different sizes. Up to eight tiles in total can be arranged next to each other. Here you can display Trip Data, Audio (playlist/song/cover) or Messages/News in Driving mode, for example. Alternatively, there is also, as already outlined above, the Travel mode, where the emphasis is on the graphically perfect representation of travel content. A Home button in the middle of the head unit takes you straight out of each menu back to the top level menu.
Depending on the situation it may be appropriate to switch from Driving mode to Travel mode, for instance if travel content takes precedence. In the Active Info Display the display focuses on specific navigation information, while the representation of the current route is moved to the right onto the head unit, where it may now, for example, correspond to the points of interest, which are now shown in greater detail – thus making it easier and more straightforward for everyone on board to locate POIs. The default displays on the Active Info Display, meanwhile, continue to provide the driver with the most important information for the journey. It is possible to switch between the two modes by gesture control using the Home button or using the multifunction steering wheel, which has also been completely redesigned.
e-Mirror – an electronic rear view mirror. This concept integrates the displays of the digital exterior mirrors (e-Mirror). The images come from two external cameras and the system uses multifunction displays: the driver can control the ambient light using a control panel below the display, for example. If the car is stationary, the driver and front-seat passenger can also use these panels to open and close the electric doors. The display on the driver's side is 7.9 inches in size and the front-seat passenger has a 5.9-inch screen.
Another highlight is the completely switchless multifunction steering wheel – a feature that has never before been realized in this way. The smooth surface of the multifunctional areas use touch feedback. The individual functions are activated by pressure or with a swipe gesture. Touching the surfaces gives drivers palpable "pre-sensing" touch feedback, allowing them to localize the function. As soon as they activate the function there is another, stronger touch feedback, making operation more intuitive than can be achieved by present-day solutions. Also, in contrast to the systems we are already familiar with, operation is no longer limited to the customary shift paddle, but extends over the entire surface of the operating island. Easy-to-feel raised patterns on the buttons make it easier to find your way around. Beyond that the driver is also given visual feedback on the selected functions by the Active Info Display, e.g. Audio: The cover of the song currently playing is displayed in the appropriate window. At the same time, icons are displayed at the edges of the square window – in all four corners. These four icons (scroll up or down, sound and menu) directly match the corresponding switching directions of the steering wheel controls surface, making even the most complex operating sequences easy and intuitive.
Functions such as volume control can alternatively be controlled using the new touch slider. This is a further advancement of the system presented at CES 2015 in the Golf R Touch. The new stage of development is characterized by higher sensor resolution, which is clearly noticeable for drivers and front-seat passenger alike due to the system's optimized precision and performance. This enables the touch slider to recognize not only the number of fingers on the slider, but also their movements, for instance to zoom in or out of the navigation map.
Volkswagen has significantly enhanced the gesture control system presented in the Golf R Touch at last year's CES. In the BUDD-e the experts from the Body Electronics division have used sensor technology that is already capable of recognizing people as they are approaching the Volkswagen. For the vehicle exterior this is accomplished using infrared sensors. All it takes at the starting point of the journey on Columbus Avenue in San Francisco is an intuitive hand gesture to open the BUDD-e's sliding door as if by magic. A simple foot movement – of the Virtual Pedal 3.0 – opens the electrically operated tailgate; this is a further development of the Easy Open function. The gesture control system of the BUDD-e's interior is simpler and more intuitive than ever before, with the maximum operating distance having been significantly increased: Here cameras are used to sense if a passenger in the rear compartment wants to open the sliding door, for instance. Interactive displays and projections also assist drivers and their passengers when it comes to operation. For example drivers: their gestures are recognized without the gesture control system needing to be explicitly activated – as was still the case in the Golf R Touch – making it an integral part of operating procedures that are taken absolutely for granted.
The atmosphere on board is predominantly determined by the lighting mood. At CES 2015, Volkswagen demonstrated how the dominant color of the display illumination and the matching ambient lighting can be individually adapted using the touch slider in the Golf R Touch. Also embedded in this color staging is opening/start-up and parking/shut-down of the new Volkswagen: When the car is opened, the interior comes to life with the entire cockpit and ambient lighting. The ambient lighting system implemented in the BUDD-e is a further development of that system: While the lighting situation was primarily influenced by the driver and the front-seat passenger in 2015, this now extends to the entire interior of the car. On top of this, this is the first car in which the ambient lighting interacts with the gesture control system. Last but not least, the light can be adjusted to suit the countryside passing by outside.
Not only does the BUDD-e's completely new infotainment concept make traveling more interactive and media more tangible, it also creates a link between the car and the world of its users. But there's more – BUDD-e itself becomes part of the Internet and becomes a key to digitized realms of service and infotainment: People will be able to access their homes and workplaces from cars like this Volkswagen and control the air conditioning system, turn the lights on or off, or simply take a look online to see if the kids are home yet. @home on the Internet. @home in the car.
At the same time, the car will become an interactive interface to the outside world and thus part of the smart world: It is conceivable, for example, that consumables – such as new wiper blades for the car – and all kinds of shopping could in future not only be ordered from the car, but could even be delivered to the car using a Drop Box in the car that is accessible from outside. The Volkswagen reads an access code by NFC to open the Drop Box for the authorized parcel delivery service using a digital key. A mobile letter box!
At present, smart home functions are controlled using smartphone apps produced by the respective manufacturers. Of course, as we all know, smartphones aren't allowed to be used while driving for safety reasons, but Volkswagen has found a solution to this challenge, too. With App Connect – Volkswagen's interface for all Apple and Android smartphones – the BUDD-e makes it possible to control certain Connected Home functions from the car while driving. At the CES Volkswagen, in cooperation with the Korean electronics company LG, will show how it is possible to check what is in the fridge from the BUDD-e concept car, for example. It's also possible to put the whole house into an energy-saving sleep mode using the BUDD-e. In future the car will also automatically make sure that the lights in and around the house go on as soon as the car approaches (home net automation).
In parallel to CarPlay™ (Apple) and Android Auto™ (Google), MirrorLink™ is (for Android phones) a central interface for using smartphone apps in the car. All three of these apps are mirrored in the infotainment system with the Volkswagen-compatible smartphone apps. Volkswagen has bundled these apps in the smartphone integration package App Connect available for various models since 2015. At this year's CES Volkswagen will demonstrate, together with the German manufacturer Doorbird, how MirrorLink™ can also be used in connection with the newly developed Home-Net Viewer to display images from cameras mounted in and around the house on one of the screens in the car (a scenario that it equally conceivable with CarPlay™ and Android Auto™). For example: if a visitor rings the doorbell at home, an image of them, taken by the home camera, is sent to the screen of the infotainment system. But there's more! It is even possible to speak to the visitor using the car's hands-free system and, if you wish, open the door for them.
It may seem a bit like artificial intelligence, but BUDD-e can remind users if they have forgotten anything in the car, via their smartwatch and/or their smartphone. You can also find things in the car using "Home-Net don't forget". Using an inventory list the driver or passengers can see everything that has been put in the car. But that isn't everything! The intelligent Reminder also lets you know about certain things that ought to be in the car in certain situations. For example, if rain is forecast, BUDD-e reminds the driver that there isn't an umbrella in the car at the moment. The relevant items are equipped with a transmitter (a small sticker) in advance, making it possible to locate them. The "Home-Net don't forget" app uses an encrypted wireless interface, meaning that it is impossible for the items to be located from outside the car or by unauthorized users.
Volkswagen plans to become one of the first manufacturers to integrate gesture control into affordable mass production cars. The manufacturer will showcase the BUDD-e in Las Vegas to show how broad the range of possibilities is. Using this car it will in future also be possible to make use of the gesture control functions in the car to operate certain functions at home, as Volkswagen will also explain at the CES. It does this using the familiar Easy Open function, for which the BUDD-e can use a laser to project a virtual footprint in front of the tailgate. If an authorized user kicks this spot, the tailgate opens automatically. Opening the door at home works in the same way: BUDD-e project a footprint in front of the door and if the person who lives there puts their foot on it, the door opens – very handy if you have your arms full of shopping bags. Of course some alterations need to be made to the door in advance and there also needs to be a software link for this to work.
Friends say goodbye to each other. Messages fly to and fro over the net via smartphone, smartwatch and tablet. Time to get out of town for a few days. We leave in the morning. Time to spend some time together, at one of the most legendary festivals in the USA in the Nevada desert. Once a year this location becomes an oasis for art, music and individualism. A festival to celebrate life, which culminates on the sixth day of the eight-day festival, when an enormous human figure is set ablaze. The friends soon agree on where to set off on their trip to Nevada from: Columbus Avenue in San Francisco. This is where the friends plan to set off for Nevada in the BUDD-e. Before them lie about 500 miles of interactive travel in a zero-emission vehicle, including a refreshing stop en route at Lake Tahoe.
The trip is confirmed. The driver has sent each of the friends' information about the journey, including details of the proposed route, to their tablets. This is followed by interactive planning of a kind that has never been seen before. In the pre-2019 world you could, of course, think about what music would be cool and appropriate on your playlist, or which Points of Interest (POI) you would like to see or visit. But now you can plan all of this in advance on your tablet as Our Journey using the new Volkswagen Travel App and then integrate it straight into the BUDD-e's navigation guidance system using the brand new interfaces. Even the playlist is customized to suit the route: Each of the passengers plans what they would like to listen to, see and do en route from San Francisco to Nevada before setting off.
August 26. Starting point San Francisco. The driver and his friends meet up at Baker Beach. He opens the sliding door on the passenger side of the BUDD-e using gesture control. Each of his passengers has their own tablet with the new Volkswagen Travel App with them; they use this app to plan their interactive requests for the trip. A sensor in the car automatically recognizes and locates each of the passengers' tablets, and it doesn't matter at all whether they have Android or Apple OS. Now the new Volkswagen Travel App automatically merges all of the details selected before the trip to the festival in Nevada: First the car welcomes the passengers on board using an avatar that was personalized in advance. Above each of their seats there is also individualized ambient lighting in each passenger's favorite colors, which they also selected in advance using the app. On a 34-inch monitor (on the left in the back) the images from the tablets are bundled and the personalized playlists, photos, videos and POIs are merged for the common journey. By the way, in the BUDD-e the tablets are charged inductively, too.
BUDD-e and the friends leave San Francisco behind them. On the road they alter and augment the list of Points of Interest and load more songs to the playlist for the itinerary. At the same time, the new entries are displayed on the 34-inch screen to display the detailed trip itinerary. On the way, the passengers can also use GoPro cameras to take photos or videos on board and of the route. These can also be shared via WhatsApp etc. from the car or be collected and mailed as a complete travel diary, which lets other friends take part in the most legendary present-day festival in the USA, even if they couldn't make it to Nevada in person in 2019.
The option of the BUDD-e driving autonomously is also implemented. The Volkswagen Group is among the pioneers of autonomous driving. Back in 2005 Volkswagen won the "Grand Challenge" – a race covering a distance of 136,7 miles (220 km) for autonomous cars – with the Touareg luxury SUV in the USA. The prototype, christened "Stanley", was developed by the Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) in Palo Alto, California in cooperation with Stanford University. Since then the development of autonomous driving has been making rapid progress and evolving up to the present day. In 2015 the group brand Audi sent the A7 piloted driving concept – equipped with laser scanners, long and mid-range radar sensors and four cameras at the front and rear – drive autonomously from ERL in Silicon Valley to the CES in Las Vegas, a distance of 560 miles (about 900 kilometers) with enthusiastic media representatives on board the concept car. Also, Volkswagen sent the e-Golf Perfect Parking at the CES 2015 in Las Vegas to an inductive charging station autonomously, using a smartphone app.
There have already been Volkswagen assistance systems in production models for some time, to automate certain individual functions, such as the Traffic Jam Assistant (automatic steering, braking and accelerating in stop-and-go traffic up to 37 mph / 60 km/h), Adaptive Cruise Control (automatic braking and accelerating at high speed on the highway), the Autonomous Emergency Braking Front Assist including the City Emergency Braking System with Pedestrian Monitoring, Lane Assist and Side Assist (automatic lane tracking and counter-steering when changing lanes when there is a vehicle in the blind spot), Park Assist (autonomous parking, including automatic steering and braking), Rear Traffic Alert (which recognizes approaching vehicles when reversing out of a parking bay and applies the brakes) or Emergency Assist (which stops the car automatically and activates the hazard warning lights and sends an SOS emergency call if the driver becomes incapacitated).
By around the end of this decade – in about 2019, when the BUDD-e would be on its way from San Francisco to the festival in Nevada –the functions of the assistance systems such as those in the Audi A7 piloted driving concept and the e-Golf Perfect Parking research vehicles and the systems already available from Volkswagen, for instance in the Passat and Golf, could merge and make fully automated driving an everyday reality. With two objectives: to minimize accidents and maximize comfort on long journeys. Volkswagen‘s technical toolkits are designed to allow the latest features to be integrated step by step as we progress towards fully automated driving.