NEW YORK – Convinced 60 processing units in the Phaeton is an excessive amount, Volkswagen AG is driving a significant reduction in the number of chips onboard its vehicles, from its luxury flagship sedan to its smallest, least-expensive models.

“But it’s difficult to eliminate redundancy, because (we have) so many suppliers,” says Burkhard Huhnke, director of the Volkswagen Group of America Inc. electronics research laboratory.

“There are (separate) processing units for engine control and temperature control,” he says. “Is it necessary for two units to monitor temperature for the engine and outside temperature for the air-conditioning system?”

Sensors are used to monitor such things as acceleration, brake pressure and engine and vehicle speed, he notes. “We need to collect these in a central unit.”

That means it will be necessary to eliminate the redundancies from one processor to another.

“But you’re talking about so many suppliers, and you have to force them to open their black boxes,” Huhnke says.

Huhnke wants VW to be able to combine communication between the central processors for the engine, gearbox and infotainment system that displays information to the driver. He believes it’s possible to eliminate 50% of today’s processing units, even while increasing the complexity of vehicles.

“By reducing redundancy, we can add functions without adding processors,” he says.

The Golf has almost as many functions as the Phaeton, but only has 40 processors.

“Our goal is to add functions, without adding processors,” Huhnke says. “But our suppliers are resistant to opening their black boxes.”

He’s not discouraged, however. “I think this is an opportunity for both OEMs and suppliers.”

By collaborating, VW and its suppliers could “achieve greater customer satisfaction,” Huhnke says. He predicts 80% of future product enhancements will be a matter of software changes.