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VW's software arm Cariad hires semiconductor expert as US-based CEO

Volkswagen’s software arm Cariad is beefing up its U.S. tech hub with semiconductor experts, including the company’s new CEO, Scott Runner.

Runner has a 30-year career building hardware and semiconductor teams at companies like Qualcomm, and his appointment signals a push by Cariad, and therefore VW, to build greater semiconductor capabilities in the U.S.

Cariad has also recently hired top semiconductor experts from Tesla and Apple who have joined the Santa Clara office, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The global semiconductor shortage hit the automotive industry hard, so it makes sense that Cariad, and by extension VW, would want to secure its supply at a more reasonable price point. Electric vehicles use more chips than gas-powered vehicles, and most new EVs today -- including VW’s ID.4 -- also promise automated driving features and high-tech infotainment systems that will require high-performance computing.

“The reasons for our involvement in semiconductor specification and development lie in securing the performance of our platforms, securing the supply chain and achieving more cost effectiveness across the Group,” Klaus Hofmockel, SVP at Cariad, told TechCrunch.

There are already about 250 employees working for Cariad in the U.S., and the company will continue to build up its in-house expertise for semiconductor development, testing and analysis, according to Hofmockel.

“Ultimately, our goal is to co-create and design automotive chips of the future on an equal footing with semiconductor manufacturers,” he said.

Cariad also wants to become part of the semiconductor value chain by building long-term partnerships in the industry. The company has already partnered with Qualcomm and ST Microelectronics to supply system-on-chips for Cariad’s software platform that’s designed to enable assisted and automated driving functions.

“A crucial part of these partnerships is the mutual transfer of knowledge,” said Hofmockel. “As an automotive company, we have special requirements for chips with regard to safety, quality and robustness. For example, chips must be able to last more than 100,000 hours in the car, and control units must always be on -- in extreme cases, for 15 years. By working in close collaboration with our partners, we can ensure that these requirements are communicated and satisfied.”

Cariad's new semiconductor team will also focus on standardizing low computing, as well as promoting co-design in high performance, according to Hofmockel. Low computing helps integrate various electronic components and systems in the vehicle -- anything from engine control and opening windows to connectivity and driver assistance systems -- in a way that minimizes weight, size and power consumption, as well as costs. High-performance computing is essential for taking in data from advanced sensors and powering algorithms that support features like autonomous driving and predictive maintenance.

"In the medium to long term, we aim to have the high-performance computers in our vehicles designed according to our own requirements," said Hofmockel. "This will allow us to offer the best performance for our customers of all Volkswagen Group brands."