German car maker Volkswagen has plans to include per hour charges for access to self-driving features as it expands its car-share operations.
Speaking with German newspaper Die Welt, two of Volkswagen’s senior executives outlined the company’s aims to integrate high technology directly into its business model through a suite of on-demand or subscription-based features.
Volkswagen appears to be looking to digital technology for inspiration on how to adapt its business model with plans for micro-transactions that unlock more features like better performance, further range, or self-driving.
“With autonomous driving, we can imagine that we switch it on by the hour,” Volkswagen board member Klaus Zellmer said.
“We assume a price of around seven euros per hour. So, if you don't want to drive yourself for three hours, you can do so for 21 euros.
“That makes autonomous driving accessible to everyone – and not just for those who can afford a car with a five-digit surcharge.”
Zellmer’s statements are a clear dig at Tesla which offers its misnamed ‘Full Self-Driving Capability’, or ‘Autopilot’, as an add-on for $10,000.
Volkwagen’s stated cost of around $11 per hour of autonomous driving would make it more affordable to people who might want to use the feature sparingly or not commit to a $10,000 spend for the full feature.
Volkswagen doesn’t yet have a self-driving feature akin to Tesla’s Autopilot and is instead gradually iterating driver assist technology as it works toward full automation by 2030.
The addition of on-demand services in Volkswagen also speaks to the company’s aspirations for its all-electric car sharing business WeShare which currently operates out of only a few European cities.
The ability for WeShare users to gain access to self-driving for an extra hourly cost may help expand the userbase of its already-growing service which Volkswagen expects to be a major source of revenue in the coming decade.
“I can imagine that there will be more use cases in the future in which customers only want to access cars for an hour or a day at short notice,” Zellmer said.
“That could make up 20 to 30 percent of our business by 2030.”
Volkswagen subsidiary Cariad is tasked with building an operating system that will allow customers to transfer user settings between vehicles for improved product integration.
Together, the features mark Volkswagen’s ongoing foray into the electric car market – a much improved effort to offer sustainable vehicles, following revelations the company installed devices designed to trick emissions tests in what was a large-scale fraud attempt.
Just don’t expect to see any electric, self-driving Volkswagens in Australia any time soon.
In March, the German car maker said Australia’s “embarrassing” laws and lack of a firm Federal commitment to cut emissions makes our country a no-go zone for the in-demand cars.