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Volkswagen’s roots in Silicon Valley sprout the tech-driven future of transportation

For more than two decades, Volkswagen Group of America has been researching the future of transportation in Silicon Valley. Volkswagen launched what’s formerly known as the Electronics Research Laboratory to tap into Silicon Valley’s innovation and spirit, and made it among the first automotive manufacturers to establish a cross-functional team in the region. Starting with…

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For more than two decades, Volkswagen Group of America has been researching the future of transportation in Silicon Valley. Volkswagen launched what’s formerly known as the Electronics Research Laboratory to tap into Silicon Valley’s innovation and spirit, and made it among the first automotive manufacturers to establish a cross-functional team in the region.

Starting with three employees in 1998, the unit now known as the Innovation and Engineering Center California (IECC) has contributed dozens of innovations to Volkswagen vehicles all around the globe and more than 250 patent applications.

Today, the IECC is Volkswagen’s major West Coast innovation hub and has four main goals: research innovations in mobility, apply artificial intelligence and digital solutions to business challenges, develop key technology for autonomous systems, and find ways to improve sustainability through new materials and decarbonization.

“We’re proud of the technology and engineering accomplishments our Silicon Valley team continues to lead and build for Volkswagen,” said Dr. Wolfgang Demmelbauer-Ebner, executive vice president and chief engineering officer at Volkswagen Group of America. “For more than 20 years, the IECC has been a key driver behind our efforts to combine our automotive expertise and creative spirit, allowing us to continuously deliver first-to-market innovations and a leading user experience for our customers across the U.S. and around the globe.”

Home to some 200 scientists, engineers, designers and other specialists, the IECC has two branches: Innovation Center California (ICC) and Engineering Center California (ECC). The ICC plays a key role in building technology for Volkswagen worldwide, working with other innovation centers from Volkswagen Group in Germany and Asia, drawing on connections with startups, U.S. universities and research labs to identify new technologies.

“Our goal is to drive the transformation of Volkswagen into a tech-driven car company,” said Marcus Brand, vice president at the ICC. “Being in Silicon Valley provides us with a huge opportunity to drive innovations into millions of vehicles.”

To do so requires solving key questions about how technology and innovation can address some of the toughest challenges in the automotive business. For example, the teams in Belmont have been researching how artificial intelligence could help the advancement of autonomous driving, improve battery health or to create new materials for even more sustainable mobility products.

Experts at ICC also have developed virtual and augmented reality tools that are now being used by Volkswagen designers and factory engineers. Their research work will also help power the massive data processing and machine learning required to make autonomous vehicles a reality.

“Our job is to look over the horizon and ask what technologies emerging in America – and, ultimately, globally – do we need to embrace and apply for Volkswagen in a transportation context,” said Brand. “We then strengthen our technical competencies here.”

The ECC’s role continues to grow as well. Its experts help turn innovations into useable products for U.S. and eventually global customers, from driver’s assistance features that use machine vision to apps that help connect owners to their vehicle’s functions. The work will touch virtually every vehicle the Volkswagen Group of America sells in the North American Region, including EVs like the new Volkswagen ID.4 SUV and future EV models across the portfolio.

“In Belmont, we have always been close to the heartbeat of American customers. And we can bring this to the global level. Our drive to build the digitalization of the vehicles and all their related services are the biggest change we’ve ever been a part of,” said Jochen Jencquel, vice president at ECC. “We’re collaborating with thousands of Volkswagen developers globally to bring Volkswagen’s new vision of software inside the vehicle to life.”

For example, the expert teams in Belmont are designing next-generation interior concepts for autonomous-capable electric vehicles at Volkswagen, taking into consideration how the interior controls and human-machine interface will need to change when a vehicle has more self-driving functions.

Chuhee Lee, vice president of technology and strategy at the IECC, was one of the first employees brought on. Still there today, Lee says the IECC with its huge scope of both branches, offers a unique career opportunity for developers, researchers and others.

“The scale of what we can do at Volkswagen, especially at Volkswagen Group with nearly 10 million vehicles sold around the world in a single year, is enormous,” said Lee. “Everybody at the IECC wants to contribute and make a real-world impact, and we can offer that.”

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Toyota Motor Corporation works to develop and manufacture innovative, safe and high-quality products and services that create happiness by providing mobility for all. We believe that true achievement comes from supporting our customers, partners, employees, and the communities in which we operate. Since our founding over 80 years ago in 1937, we have applied our…

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Toyota Motor Corporation works to develop and manufacture innovative, safe and high-quality products and services that create happiness by providing mobility for all. We believe that true achievement comes from supporting our customers, partners, employees, and the communities in which we operate. Since our founding over 80 years ago in 1937, we have applied our Guiding Principles in pursuit of a safer, greener and more inclusive society. Today, as we transform into a mobility company developing connected, automated, shared and electrified technologies, we also remain true to our Guiding Principles and many of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to help realize an ever-better world, where everyone is free to move.

SDGs Initiatives https://global.toyota/en/sustainability/sdgs/

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Orchard business blossoms with Hilux help

It’s late Sunday afternoon on one of the warmest spring days of the year. The ground looks dry and is already beginning to crack. Songbirds and bees compete for attention as the low sun gently warms thousands of blossoming apple trees on a south-facing hillside in the heart of Kent.But with unseasonably low temperatures in…

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It’s late Sunday afternoon on one of the warmest spring days of the year. The ground looks dry and is already beginning to crack. Songbirds and bees compete for attention as the low sun gently warms thousands of blossoming apple trees on a south-facing hillside in the heart of Kent.

But with unseasonably low temperatures in the overnight weather forecast, the race is on to protect a 75-acre orchard from frost damage. One way to do this is to make sure the grass between each row of trees is kept short. This helps to increase airflow and reduces the chance of cold air settling. 

Claire Seymour, 43, gently edges her Toyota Hilux between a row of trees at Tubslake Farm, near Hawkhurst in Kent. Her pick-up’s white paintwork and red signwriting match the flowering pink and white Braeburn apple blossom. Her husband, Steve Bowles, also 43, then sets about unloading a large green Fendt 209V tractor from an enormous six-wheeled flat-bed trailer behind the Toyota. He starts up the brand new tractor and then begins to set up and test the Fisher variable-width mower before handing it over to its new owner for an evening of urgent grass cutting.

Claire is managing director of NP Seymour Ltd, an engineering and agricultural machinery dealer set up by her family in 1974. Based in nearby Cranbrook, the company supplies and makes equipment for orchards, vineyards and fruit growers across the UK. 

“We’ve had other pick-ups in the past but I was impressed with the comfort of the Hilux. We bought it from Beadles Toyota, Medway, in the spring of 2019.

“It’s the Invincible model and is fitted with off-road tyres and a Truckman top on the back. We use it all the time for customer deliveries all over the UK, visiting growers and going to shows. The 3.5-tonne towing capacity is really important to us as lots of our kit is very heavy,” explained Claire.

Surrounded by apple blossom, NP Seymour’s Toyota Hilux delivers a tractor to an orchard at Tubslake Farm, Hawkhurst, Kent.

“We’ve been really busy since we’ve owned it. Covid didn’t really slow us down at all. We just had a few difficulties with staff numbers. But the demand for our machinery hasn’t stopped.

“The Hilux has already done 50,000 miles, and absolutely nothing has gone wrong with it. We’ll definitely buy another Toyota when it’s time to replace this one,” she said, just before hurrying off, leaving the orchard in a cloud of dust to go and enjoy the rest of her Sunday evening with Steve.

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Toyota Motor Corporation works to develop and manufacture innovative, safe and high-quality products and services that create happiness by providing mobility for all. We believe that true achievement comes from supporting our customers, partners, employees, and the communities in which we operate. Since our founding over 80 years ago in 1937, we have applied our…

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Toyota Motor Corporation works to develop and manufacture innovative, safe and high-quality products and services that create happiness by providing mobility for all. We believe that true achievement comes from supporting our customers, partners, employees, and the communities in which we operate. Since our founding over 80 years ago in 1937, we have applied our Guiding Principles in pursuit of a safer, greener and more inclusive society. Today, as we transform into a mobility company developing connected, automated, shared and electrified technologies, we also remain true to our Guiding Principles and many of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to help realize an ever-better world, where everyone is free to move.

SDGs Initiatives https://global.toyota/en/sustainability/sdgs/

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