Futuristic images of cars were splashed across the Consumer Electronics Show this week, as the world’s largest tech gathering ogled the concept cars of the coming driverless era. But there is one crucial detail that was not mentioned in the fancy presentations: the new cars may need to last for a million miles. “This is a topic we are working heavily on,” says Johann Jungwirth, chief digital officer at Volkswagen.
Durability and longevity will be essential for self-driving vehicles, he explains, because they will be part of transportation fleets that are in near-constant use. “I can see the vehicle life going up to 500,000 or even 1m miles or more,” he says, adding that refurbishment programs will help extend vehicle life. “That is one criteria that is becoming more important in the future.” This shift will represent a massive disruption for carmakers, as the advent of autonomous fleets of electric vehicles has the potential to upend their traditional business models.