With the automotive industry shifting to software defined vehicles, CARIAD, the Volkswagen Group software subsidiary, collaborated with Microsoft using Azure and Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) to create the CARIAD Service Platform for providing automotive applications to brands like Audi, Porsche, Volkswagen, Seat and Skoda. This platform powers and accelerates the development and service of vehicle software by CARIAD’s developers, helping software become an advantage for the Volkswagen Group in the next generation of automotive mobility.

Building "next era" vehicles, driven by data

Vehicle manufacturers are navigating a paradigm shift toward intelligent transportation. With consumers’ increasing demands for connectivity, automation, and personalization, the industry is redefining the very concept of what a car is, and what it’s designed to do.

As one of the largest automotive makers in the world, the Volkswagen Group has embraced software-defined vehicles, for an era where modern applications matter just as much as mechanical hardware, and operating systems will control vehicle functions, maintenance updates, navigation, automated driving, and safety.

In 2020, to guide its evolution, the Volkswagen Group formed CARIAD, an in-house software development subsidiary tasked with building a new tech stack to make automotive mobility safer, more sustainable, and more comfortable.

"The Volkswagen Group counts 14 million connected vehicles. The digital experience is the future differentiator for consumers—and it will be the Volkswagen Group's competitive advantage," says Dr. Patrick Bauer, Head of Cloud Platform at CARIAD. "Moving forward, on top of mechanical construction, choice will be defined by digital capabilities, features, and connectivity."

CARIAD wanted to build a unified cloud offering supporting the Volkswagen Group’s fleet to minimize backend variances while empowering its developers to build innovative software and applications for its next generation vehicles.

"From the beginning, we had the vision of offering a platform developers could onboard themselves, start developing and deploying applications as they need, without any obstacles to their workflow," says André Hacke, Senior Product Owner at CARIAD.

A platform accelerating development and delivery at global scale

In 2021, CARIAD and the Volkswagen Group chose Microsoft Azure and Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) for its scale and flexibility. "AKS is the central offering, empowering developers to easily, reliably, and efficiently develop applications," says Lennart Weller, Senior Dev Ops Engineer at CARIAD.

This new CARIAD Service Platform is the foundational service layer provided to teams across the Volkswagen Group, so they can deploy and operate containerized applications at scale. The platform has three pillars: Azure for networking and access management, GitHub for source code, and AKS for managed Kubernetes clusters open to developers. "It gives our teams a simple way to easily develop applications without the required knowhow on how to precisely address Kubernetes specific options," explains Weller.

Hacke says the platform is crucial to CARIAD’s innovation objectives. "We have 800 developers working on the CARIAD Service Platform, creating digital solutions for more than 200 products that need to meet the needs of millions of end users." AKS accelerates the development and deployment cycles in evolutions of a single feature or a suite of tools through CARIAD's platform at scale, instantly and worldwide.

Bauer adds, "The biggest impact is we’re faster, giving our developers the best environment to be creative and build innovative services for our customers."

These innovations can include everything from predictive maintenance monitoring, autonomous operations, communications and entertainment, and even future-state features in test-and-learn infancy. All the service applications consumers and the vehicle itself uses run on the Service Platform through an on-board electronic control unit (ECU).

The scalability of Azure and AKS has proven to be a huge benefit for CARIAD. Consider rush hour traffic with lots of commuters increasing the load quickly and temporarily on the system. "In the cloud, we can scale up to meet demand, or scale down during slower hours, as needed," says Hacke. This responsiveness to anticipated and unanticipated demand allows CARIAD to be efficient with costs.

AKS orchestrates all the containers and applications running on top of the CARIAD Service Platform and even provides backup, so in case something happens to one container, another activates to help guarantee consistent service to the vehicle and its passengers.

Enhancing Volkswagen's competitive advantage in defining automotive software

Together, CARIAD and Microsoft have built a reliable, secure and accessible service platform to provide a seamless way to easily deploy and operate applications in a containerized way on Azure at scale.

With Azure as the engine for powering a continuous cycle of updates and innovations, Volkswagen Group vehicles can evolve long after the vehicle leave the factory. "We are innovating software-defined vehicles by providing the CARIAD Service Platform—helping our developers create and deploy innovations faster and better," says Bauer.

For CARIAD, this means the ability to rapidly develop new concepts for what vehicles can be and do, shaping industry standards for years to come. As Hacke says, "Microsoft Azure and AKS help our teams get innovations deployed to end user applications and vehicles faster."

Ultimately, Weller says, "For us, Azure and specifically AKS is one piece of a greater puzzle to make software a competitive advantage for the Volkswagen Group."

CES 2024