Volkswagen Marks 20 Years of Innovation in Silicon Valley With Concept Car

By Ilene Eng

BELMONT, Calif.—A Volkswagen research plant created a concept vehicle called ‘Type 20′ to celebrate its 20th year.

The Volkswagen research plant in Belmont, Calif. celebrates its 20th year at IECC with Type 20, on July 2, 2019. (Ilene Eng/NTD)
Erik Glaser, principal product designer for Type 20, gave attendees a tour of the vehicle on at IECC on July 2, 2019. (Ilene Eng/NTD)

Type 20 looks like a 1962 Volkswagen van, but it comes with futuristic technology like face- and speech-recognition.

“One that might actually be quite useful with an electric vehicle is to know what the battery level is without having to go inside the car or open up an app or something like that,” said Erik Glaser, principal product designer of Type 20.

The company is still testing new features of personalized vehicles using artificial intelligence, or AI.

“Understanding who you are, greeting you personally. It just creates this emotional connection between the product and the customer. And this is what it’s all about for us,” said Nikolai Reimer, SVP & Executive Director at IECC.

Dr. Wolfgang Demmelbauer-Ebner talks about the engineering strategy used in the company’s development on July 2, 2019 at IECC. (Ilene Eng/NTD)

Many years of research and testing are required, to keep moving.

The Germany-based car manufacturer has research branches across the United States with specialized functions, to use local factors to best advantage.

“We are doing testing in Arizona for example, if you need hot temperatures, there we have a big proving ground so we are widely distributed,” said Dr. Wolfgang Demmelbauer-Ebner, EVP & Chief Engineering Officer of the North American region.

They have tested navigation of autonomous vehicles throughout the years, including predictive navigation.

Now the trend is gravitating towards how cars can offer better user experience, like interaction, comfort, and aesthetics.

“We’re not just preparing for the future, the future is more or less made here in Silicon Valley, for many industries, not just the automotive,” said Reimer.

They expect that in the future, AI and digitalization may help personalize vehicles even more.