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Volkswagen chairman Martin Winterkorn unveiled James 2025, a prototype of the interiors of what it called the car of the future, at the opening ceremony of Europe’s largest technology showcase, Cebit 2014, in Hannover in Germany. James 2025 is a virtual cockpit where drivers can sit back and hand over some of the controls of their cars by pressing a few buttons on the panel. As soon as the automatic driving mode is activated, the steering wheel, seating position and the light coding changes and a large central screen gives the driver details of any planned manoeuvers.

A second screen with a touchpad on the console provides infotainment features. With higher levels of automation and electronics systems running together in the cockpits of modern cars, multiple stakeholders should participate in developing intelligent cars of the future by defining a legal framework, Winterkorn said. “The challenges we face here are the modernization of infrastructure and the clarification of legal aspects. The automobile industry, the IT industry, scientists and politicians need to join forces. The mobility of the future will be worthwhile for everyone — especially for consumers who will benefit from cars that are safer, more comfortable and more intelligent,” he said.

He said IT has an important role to play in shaping mobility of the future. The Volkswagen Group invests 3.8 billion euros in IT every year and employs 9,300 IT specialists. “The car itself has become a mobile computing centre. We install approximately 1.5 kilometres of wiring in every vehicle and more than 50 electronic control devices. Their combined computing power is equivalent to 20 of the latest PCs you can buy today,” Winterkorn said.

In today’s new age of digitization, two-way communication between cars and their environment could address issues around safety and fuel consumption. Winterkorn, however, emphasized the need for automakers to be equally responsible about protecting customers’ data. “The car must not be a data monster. I say yes to big data, yes to greater security and convenience, but no to the nanny state and Big Brother! This is an issue that affects the whole industry and what is needed here is a form of self-regulation by the car industry. Volkswagen certainly stands ready to sign up for such an arrangement,” he said.

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