Information Technology (IT)
Volkswagen is working hard on strengthening its digital competencies with a view to shaping and safeguarding the Company’s future viability. To this end we are continuously upgrading our IT systems so that they are sustainable in the long term and are progressively moving our systems and applications over to new cloud platforms. Our primary concern is further increasing the efficiency of the IT systems used throughout the Company and standardizing these as far as possible. We are also concentrating on building up our expertise and specialist IT knowledge, especially in key digital technologies such as artificial intelligence and the use of new IT technologies in products, services and business processes.
To safeguard the development of core competencies in our Company in the fields of technology, digitalization and autonomous driving, we are building up IT resources that will help shape and push the Company’s digital transformation.
Due to the global spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have taken measures to protect the workforce, such as an increased use of remote working. In this context, safeguarding access to the IT infrastructure in all brands and companies was a major priority in fiscal year 2020. Usage figures for VPN (virtual private network) access and digital collaboration applications soared compared with the previous year. IT system availability improved once again year-on-year.
The Group IT Steering Committee was formed in 2019 to leverage synergies, to manage the Group’s IT project portfolio and promote communication with departments on IT projects. Planning and managing the IT project portfolio at Group level make sure that budgets and resources are employed in a coordinated fashion in the development, implementation and use of IT solutions. In fiscal year 2020, the Group IT Steering Committee prioritized the IT project portfolio with all brands so as to take account of the Group’s situation during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Volkswagen embraces digitalization in the Company; its in-house IT labs are just one example of this. The labs act as centers of innovation and expertise that conduct research, experiment with new technologies and make these available for productive use in applications for the organization. Here, Group IT, research institutes, technology partners and policy-makers work closely together on future trends in information technology. At the same time, the labs function as liaison offices for start-ups. This allows the experience and strategic expertise of a large company like Volkswagen to be combined with the pragmatism and speed of young start-ups. Highly specialized experts at the IT labs in Munich, and increasingly also in Wolfsburg, are working, for example, on exploiting the potential of quantum computers for areas that have a commercial application. The focus here is on the optimization of traffic flows and the simulation of materials and alloys. Initial experimental projects are also investigating opportunities for combining the potential of quantum computers with self-learning systems (quantum machine learning).
In addition, the IT labs are used to transfer knowledge throughout the entire Company on topics such as data analytics (process for the systematic analysis of data in electronic form) and decentralized databases, that allow network participants to jointly process and store data (distributed ledger technologies), and to make new technologies usable for the Company. For instance, numerous bot projects are being implemented to automate business processes (robotic process automation), and self-learning systems will be used to intelligently analyze data to assist staff in recurring administrative work by preparing such activities independently and passing them on to staff for decision-making.
The further convergence of different business areas with IT is also opening up potential. In production, for example, big data processes help us to analyze faulty machinery and take action at an early stage. Big data refers to data volumes that are too vast and too complex to be analyzed and evaluated using manual or conventional methods. Production processes are also safeguarded by artificial intelligence and camera systems (computer vision). The systems and equipment in the factories are linked together in an integrated overall system, enabling efficiency to be increased and digital pilot projects to be integrated into the existing architecture much more easily than before. In conjunction with the different departments, Group IT is also contributing its expertise to the field of research and development. For instance, digitalized work tools such as the “virtual concept vehicle” make the product development process faster and more efficient. Value creation in sales is being increased with the help of advanced analytics (a process for systematic analysis of future events and behavior), for example in optimizing the use of parking lots and vehicle collection processes.
The IT department engages in extensive activities to give Volkswagen’s employees access to digital media and work tools. The provision of state-of-the-art IT applications for digital collaboration and the expansion of options for conducting business on mobile devices are designed to improve productivity in the long term. The Company’s internal network, Group Connect, promotes knowledge transfer and networking among all employees. The platform puts experts in touch with one another across the brands and the world.
In software development centers we develop cross-brand software for digital ecosystems and for new business processes in the Group. We thereby maintain in-house expertise in the rapid, demand-oriented development of software and IT solutions. This capability will become increasingly important as the Company’s digital transformation evolves.
Cutting-edge technologies for the industrial Internet of Things are being developed at the software development center in Dresden. In collaboration with a leading cloud provider, Amazon Web Services, we are working on a digital production platform that will enable Volkswagen to significantly reduce its production costs in the future.
Safeguarding data and information throughout the Volkswagen Group worldwide is one of the main tasks of IT and is being continued with the Group Information Security Program launched in fiscal year 2020. The objective of the program is to create uniform processes and solutions across the Group to further enhance information security in the areas of cloud security and secure software development. The main focus is on topics that could one day pose information security risks for the Group. The program’s content and orientation will be reviewed annually and updated if necessary.
CAR2X technology offers our customers protection by warning them, for example, about traffic hazards. CAR2X technology enables direct wireless communication among the vehicles themselves and with the transport infrastructure. This TÜV IT-certified technology, implemented in accordance with European standards, represents a technical milestone in our CAR2X program.
We are one of the first vehicle manufacturers to require our suppliers to have passed TISAX (Trusted Information Security Assessment Exchange) certification. This sends out a strong signal about cross-company information and data security. TISAX certification is an assessment method developed by the German Association of the Automotive Industry and is based on the new international industry standard and the requirements of the automotive world. The aim is for sensitive data and information to be dealt with securely by our suppliers.
The tasks of automotive cybersecurity are to avert cyber attacks on our vehicles throughout the entire product life cycle and in the supply chains and to protect our customers’ personal data in our vehicles. The first Group policies in the Volkswagen Group based on the legal requirements of the UNECE regulation have been implemented. Cross-brand organizational guidelines are being specified and implemented on this basis, taking the organizational circumstances into account.
Our “Protected Customer” program addresses the requirements of the UNECE regulation. To enable us to protect our customers against cyber attacks, and to implement our solutions in conformity with national and international legislation, we are establishing integrated, cross-brand, cross-regional security management systems for information and cybersecurity. One of the aims of this program, which is set to run until 2021, is to safeguard the complete life cycle of our vehicles and the digital mobility services.
Key central information security processes have been audited within the international ISO 27001 framework and were recertified in 2020. This is the most important standard for information security and extends beyond IT to also cover issues such as human resource security, compliance, physical security and legal requirements.
In fiscal year 2020, we continued the activities of our Group program for systematic implementation of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and developed Group-wide standards for GDPR compliance. This gave rise to uniform processes, procedures and systemic solutions, as well as a Group-wide GDPR dialogue. In addition, knowledge relating to data protection was continuously built up through extensive training and qualification measures. Whenever new IT solutions are developed, requirements based on the Privacy by Design principle are taken into account from the outset. The basic requirements of the GDPR, transparency in processing and the minimization of personal data, remain essential goals in all existing and future processes. To facilitate long-term compliance with the GDPR, the development of the data protection management organization that began in 2019 was steadily continued and implemented in regular operations.