VW will design its own chips for self-driving cars

It's borrowing its strategy from Apple and Tesla.

Andrew Tarantola/Engadget

Volkswagen won't settle for off-the-shelf computing power with its self-driving cars. As Reuters (via Autoblog) reports, company chief Herbert Diess told Handelsblatt in an interview that VW will design its own high-performance chips for autonomous vehicles. It was a matter of eking out the best possible hardware, Diess said — much like Apple and Tesla, the move would give VW "higher competence" in defining its processors.

The automaker wouldn't build the chips themselves, but did want to own patents. The company's software division, Cariad, would expand to develop relevant expertise.

A move like this might be key to VW's goal of becoming a more agile, tech-savvy brand. Tesla relied on standard NVIDIA hardware for earlier cars, but has shifted to custom chips that give it more control over how Full Self-Driving and Autopilot will develop. Likewise, many credit Apple's growing performance advantages to its in-house processor design — it can create CPUs that suit its ideal product strategy instead of shaping phones and computers around someone else's chip roadmap.

You'll have to wait a while to see the results of VW's design work when the company doesn't expect to field self-driving cars until 2025 or later. If it succeeds, though, it could claim an advantage over competitors that might be limited by stock in-car tech.