VW Acquires Stake in Autonomous Driving Specialist FDTech

Germany’s FDTech specializes in developing the algorithms that help keep autonomous vehicles on the road.

Auto giant Volkswagen has announced it has bought a minority stake in FDTech, a company specializing in the development of algorithms for systems in automated and autonomous vehicles. FDTech develops concepts for automated driving, driver assistance and mobility for manufacturers and suppliers in short development cycles. The company customizes generic functional blocks such as sensor-data processing from the camera, LiDAR and radar, sensor data fusion (SDF), path planning and longitudinal and lateral control.

Based in Chemnitz, Germany, FDTech currently employs about 30 people. Volkswagen operates two major production plants in the state of Saxony, where Chemnitz is located, including an engine site in that city. “Our mission is to make automated, networked mobility available to everyone,” Karsten Schulze, managing director of FDTech, said in a statement. “The participation of Volkswagen will assist us in realizing our ambitious growth plans. We want to be one of the driving forces in automated driving in the technology region of Saxony.” The company also structures, manages and executes projects of different sizes and setups for manufacturers and suppliers in all stages of the vehicle-development process.

“We are working flat out to integrate highly automated driving in the next generation of Volkswagen cars,” Friedrich Eichler, head of chassis development for the brand, said in a statement. “Through our participation in FDTech, we have gained further essential expertise. The company is a fantastic example of the innovative power of German small and medium-sized companies.” Eichler further stated Volkswagen plans to combine the unique capabilities of FDTech with VW’s performance capabilities as a global mobility company.

The company wants to change itself from an automaker to a mobility service provider, and is willing to bet about $4Bn on that effort by 2025. Its plan includes connecting all models to the internet, creating a unified onboard IT architecture and building a cloud platform for services that will include car-sharing, parking and package delivery to customers’ vehicles. Starting with its I.D. series of connected electric cars in 2020, VW plans to employ just a few controllers that will all use the same programming language. That could make it easier to evolve vehicles’ capabilities over time and help to pave the way for autonomous driving.

In June, VW, chipmaker Nvidia, automotive components supplier Continental, ethernet technology specialist Aquantia and engineering and electronics giant Bosch teamed up to form the Networking for Autonomous Vehicles (NAV) Alliance. The alliance is meant to help shape the future of in-vehicle networking technologies. NAV’s founding members will focus on the core objectives, such as developing an ecosystem for next-generation, multi-gig ethernet automotive networking.

Volkswagen and Apple are also partnering to bring autonomous vehicle technology onto the iPhone maker’s campuses, thanks to a deal which will see Apple self-driving tech deployed in VW T6 Transporter employee shuttles. Sales of fully autonomous vehicles in the US are expected to rise over the next eight years and reach five million by 2026, according to a May report from analyst firm Juniper.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.

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