VW upgrades infotainment system to include free remote start

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DETROIT — Most 2020 Volkswagens will come with an upgrade of the automaker’s Car-Net infotainment system that will let owners use a smartphone app to remotely start the vehicle or use it as a secure place to have packages delivered.

Many of the upgraded features will be free for five years, even if the vehicle changes ownership, while emergency roadside assistance, stolen vehicle location and others will be part of an annual subscription model. Volkswagen demonstrated the new Car-Net system for reporters Tuesday using preproduction versions of the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport, a two-row version of the Atlas crossover that is due in dealerships early next year.

The upgraded infotainment system will allow remote access to the vehicle via smartphone, enabling users to turn the engine on or off, lock or unlock the doors, honk the horn and flash the lights. The app also is able to show the vehicle’s location when parked and provide remote information on fuel level, odometer reading and whether the doors and windows are open or closed.

The upgraded system will be standard on almost all Volkswagen vehicles in mid- and upper-trim levels for the 2020 model year, the automaker said. The exception will be a limited number of Passat sedans, which will receive the technology later in the model year.

Among other changes coming to Car-Net is a new way for dealers to interact with customers. The system automatically generates monthly vehicle health reports and prompts owners to schedule service visits for recommended intervals at their preferred dealer. The app also allows certain push notifications to customers from their dealer, said Frank Weith, director of connected services for Volkswagen Group of America.

Volkswagen also will enable customers to enroll in a driving monitor program to potentially save money on insurance. The DriveView feature, similar to programs operated by many insurance carriers that use dongles attached to a vehicle’s OBD-II port, passively tracks hard braking, excess speed, night driving and other risk factors to create an overall driving score that is visible within the mobile app.

That score can then be used to secure potentially lower insurance rates through the app, Weith said. But customers must choose to participate in the monitoring, he said, and information from those who choose not to opt in is not transmitted, Weith said.

The upgraded Car-Net system also will, for the first time, allow consumers to contract directly with their mobile carrier to add 4G LTE service to their vehicle through their data plan, much as they might add another smartphone line. Doing so enables the vehicle to be a mobile hot spot, and eventually it will allow for streaming entertainment into the vehicle, Weith said. Initially, Volkswagen has an agreement through Verizon Wireless to enable the feature, but Weith said the automaker is working with other wireless providers to broaden the service.

The automaker will offer a feature package on Car-Net called Safe & Secure, for $99 per year, that provides emergency roadside assistance, stolen vehicle location, anti-theft alerts, automatic crash notifications and live information assistance through a call center.

Other features in its broader app-based Remote Access package will remain free for five years. Weith said the automaker has not yet announced the cost of the service beyond that initial period.

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