Drivers could also buy longer range, more performance, or entertainment while charging


Volkswagen has been working on self-driving electric vehicles for a while, but now there’s a new twist: The company may let you sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride after you’ve paid for a monthly subscription.

Thomas Ulbrich, a member of Volkswagen’s board, told the German newspaper Die Welt that subscription features will start showing up in the second quarter of 2022 on vehicles in the company’s ID line of all-electric vehicles. He suggested autonomous driving, when it’s finally available, would be priced at €7 per hour – just over 10 Canadian loonies, although there’s no word when such a service might start up over here.

Ulbrich also mentioned possible subscriptions for increases to EV range or performance, or for entertainment features, such as video games, to pass the time while waiting for the vehicle to recharge.

Zellmer, Volkswagen’s chief sales officer, implied that by offering a subscription for services when they’re finally available, drivers could opt for a lesser-priced vehicle now and then spend a small hourly amount in future when they want to be autonomously driven, rather than pay much more now for a vehicle with the self-driving feature built into the price, but not yet fully operational — an obvious swipe at Tesla.

But if buying a few hours of your vehicle’s self-driving ability keeps your prices down, it’ll still add up to what could potentially be vast millions of euros for Volkswagen. According to Die Welt, the German automaker will offer several digital services to ID drivers, as it transitions from simply a carmaker into a mobility provider.

Volkswagen’s software development subsidiary, originally called Car.Software Organisation and since renamed Cariad, created a cloud-based automated driving platform working with Microsoft, and purchased a camera software business from Hella. The company said about 10 per cent of the Volkswagen Group’s software code is written in-house, but plans are to increase software development to 60 per cent internally by 2025.

Volkswagen certainly isn’t alone in exploring subscription-based features as a way of increasing revenue. In the past, Tesla charged owners to “unlock” the highest performance in some Model S cars, while BMW briefly charged owners in the past to access Apple CarPlay, and has mulled over the idea of subscriptions to keep features such as heated seats or adaptive cruise control operative once a trial period runs out.