German car brand Audi has announced a bold new project under the name “Artemis” to rethink car development, and its first task will be to focus on electric and autonomous technology to produce a “highly efficient” electric vehicle by 2024.
The major focus of the Artemis project – put forth in less than two months since new Audi CEO Markus Deusmann took up the reigns – is to shake up the way things are done at the 110-year old brand.
The Artemis project will “provide a blueprint for the future agile development of cars throughout the Volkswagen Group,” says Audi, referencing agile software methodology (a reiterative process that continuously evaluates and rolls out change).
It’s a strategy that could be taking a leaf from electric car pioneer Tesla, which is known for its ability to roll out new features and bug fixes with a mentality that is more akin to software coding than the annual model updates typical of the legacy car industry.
It makes sense, too – as Deusmann points out, the Volkswagen Group has big plans to dominate the growing electric vehicle industry as it continues (somewhat unsuccessfully some may say) trying to shrug off the 2015 Dieselgate scandal.
“With 75 planned electric models by 2029, the current electric initiative at the Volkswagen Group naturally ties up all our capacities,” said Deusmann in a statement to the press.
“The obvious question was how we could implement additional high-tech benchmarks without jeopardizing the manageability of existing projects, and at the same time utilize new opportunities in the markets.”
Working with a “large degree of freedom”, the Artemis team will work from locations around the world including in Ingolstadt, where Audi’s own digital unit will provide services, to the west coast of the US.
Leading the team will be ex-Porsche and Formula One engineer Alex Hitzinger. Once rumoured to have been working on Apple’s secret autonomous Project Titan project, Hitzinger until recently worked as a board member for VW as well as senior VP for its autonomous vehicle division.
His pedigree, says Duesmann, will serve the Artemis project well as it works to develop a new business model that can be applied across Volkswagen AG’s brands.
“I value Alex Hitzinger for his strengths in innovation and implementation. We need both qualities to make major technological advances,” says Duesmann, who also oversees research and development for Volkswagen AG.
“I am also relying on his expertise to integrate future achievements into new products together with the development departments of our major Group brands. In the medium term, I expect ‘Artemis’ to provide a blueprint for a fast and agile development process at the Group, as agile as in a racing team.”
There are of course no details on what the expected new electric vehicle that will be borne out of the Artemis project will entail. To date, Audi has one fully electric vehicle on the market – the Audi e-tron – that is available in several overseas markets in various formats, including New Zealand.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.