Air assistance

Volkswagen owners may have to pay for driver assistance systems by the kilometer

  • The company wants to offer subscription services that can be purchased through the infotainment system

  • It could allow drivers to pay for self-driving while on a road trip, but not while commuting

  • It’s part of the company’s plan to overtake Tesla

Automakers are always looking for new ways to increase their profits, and many believe that their financial success in the future will be based on subscription services and repeat purchases.

Ever since the automobile was invented, automakers have made money on one-time purchases, which means they don’t make a lot of money on vehicles that are already on the road.

In order to tap into this market, many automakers have been working on subscription services that will require drivers to pay a recurring fee to benefit from the full functionality of their vehicles.

This is made possible by the increasing presence of software inside new vehicles and the possibility of over-the-air updates.

The latest automaker to toy with this idea is Volkswagen. The carmaker’s Cariad software unit believes it could offer a service that would allow drivers to pay for driver assistance features for a set distance.

This means that buyers could pay to use these features on a long road trip, but not on the go, which is the typical use case for these systems.

According to Volkswagen, combining this business model with level 4 and level 5 autonomous driving systems will allow drivers to relax using other features that could also be paid for, such as online streaming services.

The German brand isn’t the only company to announce a similar plan recently, as Volvo has revealed that its advanced driver assistance system, called Ride Pilot, will be offered as a subscription on its next high-end SUV. Unlike Volkswagen, this system will most likely use a fixed monthly or annual fee instead of a mileage-based price.

Another big part of heavy software integration in vehicles is the ability to keep older vehicles up to date, which Volkswagen expects to be able to do via regular over-the-air updates.