Worldwide, the Volkswagen Group has a long tradition of dramatic innovations — including the automatic parking system, DSG gearbox, pump/nozzle technology and direct injection gasoline engines.

Here in the US, we are blending German engineering with American ingenuity. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) is becoming the epicenter of vehicle electronics expertise in North America. The ERL team of engineers works with researchers and development teams in the US, Germany and across the globe. Our mission is to develop innovations and technologies for future generations of cars, and to transfer technologies from many industries into the automotive domain.

Ongoing ERL initiatives include:

  • Autonomous Driving, a research partnership with Stanford University that’s generating a lot of buzz about the potential for driverless vehicles
  • eMobility Technology, which is being designed to improve battery performance in electric vehicles and help make the zero-emissions mobility practical for everyday drivers
  • The Navigation Companion tool, an online portal that helps drivers find, save or share their destinations, and then transfer that information to their new Volkswagen navigation system
  • Picture Navigation, which allows users to create geo-tagged pictures, transfer them to their vehicle nav system, and share them with other drivers
  • Connectivity-Enabled Eco–Conscious Driving, which involves developing systems that can automatically find the most fuel-economical route to any destination
  • Smart Engines that use real-time driver, terrain and climate data to make automated engine control decisions to improve comfort and overall efficiency
  • Vehicle Infrastructure Integration, enabling collaborative networks of cars that communicate can avoid creating traffic jams and safely avoid collisions
  • Human Factors Research, using test cars and a driving simulator that mimics everyday driving experience to improve driver-vehicle interaction
  • Usability Competency, making electronic innovations as safe and user-friendly as possible


Autonomous Driving

One of the most forward-looking projects at the Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory, autonomous driving research is exploring the necessary systems and infrastructure to enable truly driverless vehicles. This research is yielding tremendous advances in our understanding of vehicle dynamics, control systems and sensor optimization —all vital components of the intelligent systems we are developing for real cars and real drivers.

The US Department of Defense encourages research in this area through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. To that end, DARPA hosts a prize competition on a semi-annual basis, pitting research organizations against each other in a Grand Challenge.

Working in partnership with Stanford University, the ERL has been a two-time winner of the DARPA Grand Challenge. Our first winning entry was known as “Stanley,” an autonomous Volkswagen Touareg engineered to endure the rigors of driverless operation through 132 miles of desert racing. Two years later, the teams came together again to produce Junior, a Volkswagen Passat wagon, for the DARPA Urban Challenge. Junior ranked second among the initial 85 contestants and was one of only six cars to cross the finish line.

To learn more about Junior and ERL's research into autonomous driving visit,


eMobility Technology Development

Volkswagen is investing billions of dollars in research and development for zero-emissions mobility. Our goal is both clear and ambitious: Volkswagen will be the automaker to mass-produce the electric car — for everyone.

For electric vehicles to live up to their full potential, battery performance is key. ERL is looking into various eMobility technologies to help batteries last longer. The latest research involves industry-standard Lithium Ion cells packaged into modules that are integrated into a complete battery system. We work with redundant and networked control electronics to monitor and manage the battery system during storage, driving and charging. Safety and reliability are proven through detailed modeling, bench testing and in-vehicle testing.

American audiences got a closer look at our work at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, where we introduced the Golf blue-e-motion. Known as “the People’s Plug-in,” the Golf blue-e-motion delivers an uncompromised driving experience in a fully electric car. The first models will be available for the 2014 model year.

Also in the pipeline:

  • The four-seat space up! Blue compact zero-emission van, powered by lithium ion batteries, a high-temperature fuel cell and a roof-mounted solar panel
  • Audi’s first all-electric car, the high-performance e-tron sports car
The all-electric and surprisingly roomy Volkswagen E-Up! city car


Research Partnerships

Since its inception, the ERL has worked closely with colleges and universities around the country, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California-Berkeley and Stanford University.

In 2009, we were proud to open the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Laboratory (VAIL) at Stanford University’s School of Engineering. Our $5.75 million commitment to VAIL includes $2 million for building construction and another $750,000 a year for five years to fund research and teaching activities.

We are also teaming up with MIT to make navigation systems friendlier and smarter. The Sociable Car — Senseable City project aims to transform your vehicle’s GPS navigation system into your personal co-pilot by giving you the right information at the right time, automatically.