Image: Volkswagen

Volkswagen fans who are planning to purchase one of the German automaker’s future electric vehicles for their autonomous driving features should prepare themselves for the possibility of some unexpected premiums. Thomas Ulbrich, a Volkswagen board member, recently told local newspaper Die Welt that the company was considering charging an hourly fee of $8.50 for the privilege of a hands-free and AI-assisted driving experience. Additional subscription features that would unlock extended range and/or greater performance for an hourly or daily charge have also been discussed. Similar to select Tesla models, some of Volkswagen’s upcoming electric vehicles will include infotainment systems for playing video games.

Image: Volkswagen

“In autonomous driving, we can imagine that we switch it on by the hour. We assume a price of around seven euros per hour. So if you don’t want to drive yourself for three hours, you can do it for 21 euros,” said Klaus Zellmer, chief sales officer of the Volkswagen brand. In a swipe at Tesla, he said that by charging hourly fees, VW would make autonomous driving more accessible than “a car with a five-digit surcharge.”

Sources: Die Welt, Ars Technica

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15 Comments

  1. I have two minds for this

    First – I don’t want autonomous driving myself, so whatever they want to charge for others that do: whatever. It’s a lot cheaper than Uber driving you around (ok I know on Uber your also paying fuel / car / O&M and this is just the driver… but it still sounds like it comes out ahead)

    Second – I’m assuming at some point autonomous driving will just be a thing I’ll have to deal with anyway. I already consider “other drivers” the biggest menace on the road. Whatever they need to do to ensure that when AI takes the wheel that it remains safe, having a sub service means that service would also presumably carry a level of liability coverage. If some smuck’s AI car runs into me, I expect his insurance to pay out, and if their insurance tries to cop out saying VW was at the wheel – since it’s a sub and therefore would have all the latest updates to machine learning and algorithms and whatnot, VW should pay out. They can’t really fall behind the “Well, your only driving a 2021 model, and that model has older self-driving”. I sound like I’m afraid of AI drivers – not really – I’m sure it’s already better than your average teenage driver, but probably no where near as good as the average guy who’s been doing the same commute run for 15 years straight. So just on the assumption that it will receive at least software updates is a bonus.

    As far as “better performance or range” – yeah. No. Your buying the hardware, you shoud get full use of the hardware. For self driving, at least your paying for some software evolution and improvements. And there are long drives where forking over $8.50 an hour just so I can catch a snooze without just crashing at a rest stop (see: Something About Mary) is a steal and, in the middle of a long drive late at night, even with my apprehension of AI driving, I admit I would consider. And that would be a heck of a lot better than, say, paying $5000 one time to unlock a feature I’d probably only ever even consider using a handful of times. WITH THE CAVEAT that all the required sensors and stuff are still unlocked and are capable of providing otherwise typical safety features without a subscription (collision avoidance, etc)

  2. Let me know when Class C RV’s have autonomous driving. That’d be perfect. Go to sleep and wake up in another state. Play video games, watch a movie, make a drink. Or just run down for groceries in style. That, maybe I’d pay 8.50 for.

  3. hmm.. I might pay 5 bucks a day for an automatous “back seat driver” .. if I can pick the voice. That’d help me stay awake on those long over night’r drives having some nagging voice yelling at me to “Slow down!” ..”Watch out for that deer!” .. “What!..are you drunk or something!!”

  4. [QUOTE=”ThreeDee, post: 35753, member: 164″]
    hmm.. I might pay 5 bucks a day for an automatous “back seat driver” .. if I can pick the voice. That’d help me stay awake on those long over night’r drives having some nagging voice yelling at me to “Slow down!” ..”Watch out for that deer!” .. “What!..are you drunk or something!!”
    [/QUOTE]

    Even at 8.50 an hour its cheaper than getting married.

  5. You very own car, now as a service!… * Ownership defined as the length of time for licensing. Licensing may be revoked any time withour prior notice.

  6. [QUOTE=”Uvilla, post: 35854, member: 397″]
    You very own car, now as a service!… * Ownership defined as the length of time for licensing. Licensing may be revoked any time withour prior notice.
    [/QUOTE]
    I have seen car as a service and car sharing kicked around – and I admit there are use cases where it makes sense. In bigger cities they already have it. If you only need a weekend driver in occasion it would make some sense. For someone out in the sticks – not so much.

  7. Considering the track record for VW, anyone wanna place bets on how long before it’s hacked?

    I hope they thought about securing these buggers better than they have in the past.

  8. Nope nope nope nope.

    I will never buy a car that has any subscription elements to it at all.

    A car is a one time purchase to me. Include everything I will ever use, or no buy.

  9. [QUOTE=”Zarathustra, post: 36241, member: 203″]
    Nope nope nope nope.

    I will never buy a car that has any subscription elements to it at all.

    A car is a one time purchase to me. Include everything I will ever use, or no buy.
    [/QUOTE]

    How do you find cars that don’t have satellite radio built in?

  10. [QUOTE=”Grimlakin, post: 36249, member: 215″]
    How do you find cars that don’t have satellite radio built in?
    [/QUOTE]
    I see them all the time. With manual locks, manual rolldown windows, and AM/FM radios. Often with plastic “Pleather” interior.

  11. [QUOTE=”Grimlakin, post: 36249, member: 215″]
    How do you find cars that don’t have satellite radio built in?
    [/QUOTE]

    Alright, fair point. I see that a little differently though.

    That is an external service operated by a third party which really has very little to do with the car itself.

    And no, I have never paid for satellite radio. There is nothing on there I want. Stupid shock jocks I ahve no interest in, and a bunch of basic uninteresting vamilla music stations that play the same garbage over and over.

    That, and the quality is tinny and sucks, and cuts out every time you go under a bridge.

    If I want to stream something I’ll just do it from my phone.

    Another one that bothers me is that in my newish Volvo they want a paid subscription in order to use features attached to the phone app, including remote lock/unlock, windows up/down, reading fuel level, mileage, car location, etc. remotely.

    It is absolutely absurd. They want $200 per year for these features. If I had realized this when I was car shopping, I probably would have just walked out out of principle.

    I mean, I stuck my own SIM card in the car, so I am not paying for data, and even if I were, all of these features use very little data. it costs them damn near nothing to include it, yet they want $200 per year from me?

    I bought a $50k car. Similar IOT devices for $40 come with free remote services for life, but when I buy a $50k car I should pay $200 per year for the privelege? Nope, nope nope.

    I can afford it, but I am not doing it on principle.

    That and it kind of bothers me that all cars have to be connected these days. Aren’t we being spied on enough? I don’t want my car to have any network connectivity at all. I learned my lesson this time, but next time I am going to actively look for an absence of all connectivity, whether it is exposed to the user or not, and an absence of all subscription services as well.

    I imagine that will be difficult, but if I ahve to continue driving my other car, my 20 year old Volvo Wagon I will.

    This shit has just gone too far.

    Not going to happen. I let the trial expire and have just been happily doing without.

  12. [QUOTE=”Zarathustra, post: 36262, member: 203″]
    That, and the quality is tinny and sucks, and cuts out every time you go under a bridge.

    If I want to stream something I’ll just do it from my phone.
    [/QUOTE]
    Today – that’s largely true. You get better audio quality, and in most places, better coverage, just streaming via cellular over your phone.

    Back when SXM first came out though – there was no other way.

    They are definitely overdue for bump quality, although it seems they are also going streaming… they bought out Pandora a couple years ago, and have been investing heavily in their streaming app. The app is better audio quality than the satellite service, and includes a vast majority of their programming on-demand. And with Pandora, they have been using the radio station algorithm to curate a lot of specialty channels. But.. you have to be a subscriber to get the app, and it’s a lot more expensive than other streaming services.

    Their music library still isn’t the largest (that would have to go to either Spotify or Apple, not sure which). I agree, most of their personalities are… overblown.

    That said – not necessarily defending them. I use them, because I live in the mountains, and I do not have steady Cellular to stream with — I don’t even get steady FM or AM stations – which was why I had originally subscribed years ago. It isn’t the best, it costs a ton for what it is, but I’ve got attached to some of the channels.

    I tried getting rid of it for just Spotify a couple years ago, went for about a year or so without it. But I ended up going back.

  13. If this service was more like 8.50 a month it would be worth while for me, OR if it allowed me to lease out my vehicle services say while I’m at work and actually make money on the car I would consider it for a non luxury car.

    For a luxury car though… I would expect more of this to be built in. I agree with the observation above. Just because it’s tied to a car means it needs to be more expensive?

    Parts of that I understand.

    They have to keep the car for more secure than say your remote control car app or whatever. Though with IOT, if you want good secure services you are paying for those as well. The ‘free for life’ most times these days doesn’t even equate to free for the life of the product but free for life of the company. I’ve seen too many IOT things roll out… never really gain mass appeal, then just go into bankruptcy making your Free For Life null and void then get sold to X other company who gets to consume your user data and market you some OTHER IOT device coupled with a service.

    In reality if a single company came out that said. “We are reputable, we offer services for X that cover your vehicle and IOT home services, and everything else. We charge a flat rate of xx dollars a month for x number of household members. Or X number of family members with a sliding scale for more. I would be more interested.

    Imagine a services aggregator that was large enough to have contracts with all of the streaming companies, constantly pursue other services, also had all of your IOT devices and services, AND your auto service (hell even you GPS updates for your car could be through them.) for that same flat monthly rate… whatever it would be. As long as they made your old cable bill look cheap… could be worth it.

    Then again I’m the guy that wants all auto manufacturers to produce a universal infotainment ‘dock’ in their vehicles that isn’t required to use. But you can buy your Samsung, Huai, Apple, whatever infotainment device to slot into place to allow people to have their own choice on infotainment. Maybe have a base model but with no android auto or apple car play involved that you can elect to use instead. All of the amplification and such would be installed based on the package you chose, and during the car buying process you would select a Apple, Samsun, Google, or whatever make for the head unit. Then as technology progresses when you want to upgrade you just get the new head unit and swap them out through the universal adaptor and done.

    Sure they would get stolen easier and be a target, you could engineer ways around that.

    Personally I would love the user experience. Sorry but my brain when on a tangent I’ll stop now.

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