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Volkswagen tries to conquer the world with tech

The automaker wants to be the biggest in the world by 2018, and that will require great tech from an unlikely outpost in Silicon Valley. As part of CNET Conversations, Brian Cooley visits its Electronics Research Lab.

Brian Cooley Editor at Large
Brian Cooley is CNET's Editor at large and has been with the brand since 1995. He currently focuses on electrification of vehicles but also follows the big trends in smart home, digital healthcare, 5G, the future of food, and augmented & virtual realities. Cooley is a sought after presenter by brands and their agencies when they want to understand how consumers react to new technologies. He has been a regular featured speaker at CES, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and the Publicis HealthFront. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley when Apple's campus was mostly apricots.
Expertise Automotive technology, smart home, digital health. Credentials
  • 5G Technician, ETA International
Brian Cooley
Watch this: Driving into the future at VW's Electronics Research Lab

California is not known as a carmaking state, but every carmaker is here. And few have been in Silicon Valley longer than Volkswagen Group with its Electronics Research Lab. There they try to crack the code on loading cars up with social media, connected navigation, portable integration, and more without distracting you to death.

CNET Conversations is part of a CBS Interactive special reporting project.

I spent a day with wide-ranging access to the VW lab, in conversation with its director, Peter Oel. I came away with the impression that VW, like the rest of the industry, feels the tech cat is out of the bag and we aren't going back to a day when our cars are digital ghettos. That's also because carmakers know that high-touch technology is a key way they'll clobber their competitors, but they also keep their eye on the rear view as the government makes more and more noises that sound like distraction regulation.

It's important to note that the VW parent company doesn't keep its brands on equal tech footing. Our most recent review of a VW was the 2012 Volkswagen CC, which could use a swift kick in the pants when it comes to tech. The company's pricey Porsche models do much better but it's the Audi products that steal the show like this 2012 A6 we gave an Editors' Choice to.