Volkswagen's 'Software Dream Car'

Meet "Project Trinity."

The overarching theme of the automotive industry in the past few years might just be that everything you know about cars is changing.

We’re seeing massive developments in new powertrains, a push towards more autonomous features, and even an upheaval in the way cars and being bought and sold. And the latest announcement from Volkswagen suggests that when it comes to change, nothing is off the table.

A recent teaser for VW’s so-called “Project Trinity” is nothing more than a shadow outline of what’s presumably the automaker’s next exciting venture, but CEO Ralf Brandstätter is adding a little bit more to the story.

Recently, the executive called Trinity the company’s “software dream car” and alluded to some capabilities that would modify the way we use our vehicles today. For one, the idea of a vehicle model being offered in various trim levels would be out the window

In its place, says Brandstätter, would be a single offering equipped with all the bells and whistles, which are then available on-demand. For example, features like all-wheel-drive might exist in a latent state where it can be unlocked and a driver would pay for it on a per-mile basis. Multiple reports cite VW’s chief as saying, "In the future, the individual configuration of the vehicle will no longer be determined by the hardware at the time of purchase. Instead, customers will be able to add functions on demand at any time via the digital ecosystem in the car."

There will likely be both supporters and opponents to this type of change, if and when it becomes widespread. But for those who simply wish to pay for a vehicle and be done with it, the idea of these feature-based incremental costs over the life of the vehicle may not be so appealing. On the other hand, if you’re in Texas and you get your first snowstorm in years, you might be grateful for the option of enabling all-wheel-drive.

And, hey … if it reduces the complexity of manufacturing for an automaker, would that be reflected in the purchase price? If so, I don’t think anyone will complain about that.

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