Forget the word “car”

Kai Gondlach

Every child now knows that the technical equipment that we still call a car will soon be driving across the streets without a driver. And yet there is one more thing missing from the broad discussion: scope. Apart from the organization and technology of self-driving cars, the impending change of language is quickly forgotten … we are not talking about mechanical horses today, if we mean cars. So we won’t be saying self-driving cars in 2030 and mean something else. A brief outline of the coming years as well as two crisp scenarios, from which approx. five business models.

Autonomous driving: Machines are already making better decisions

First of all, I would like to state in writing and in public that, in my opinion, the first Level 5 journey in complex traffic situations will take place before 2020. The first commercially available self-driving cars (with level 4) will follow shortly afterwards – but with the legal limitation that a steering wheel must still be available in case of an emergency. That I don’t laugh. I always like to imagine such assumptions figuratively. What does a human occupant do if the superintelligence of the automotive board computer, after evaluating 1GB of data (over one million data points) per second, comes to the conclusion that it can no longer save even this situation? That’s right: nothing at all. Then it is too late. Described differently: what do people do if someone unexpectedly takes their driveway or an animal runs in front of the car? Answer: In the majority of cases, they react irrationally, affectively and wrongly. Unfortunately, our genetic material does not contain a prefabricated instinct for such situations.

As early as 2018, evaluations have shown that autonomous vehicles cause fewer accidents than human drivers (source1, source2); in our media haze circle only the message about the errors of the autopilots always appears. Humans tend to be skeptical of new approaches to solutions at first, perhaps this property has also taken the species far. Public debate back and forth: promoting the registration of autonomous vehicles only on motorways is only right for reasons of acceptance. There is more demand in the city centres, where, although fewer and fewer, but still far too many living beings are being injured or killed by careless drivers over the last few years.

Zoom out: Business models in self-driving cars

Back to the big picture. Cars will soon be self-driving. How does this soon-to-be reality change the appearance of cars? Do the engineers at Daimler, Volkswagen, Tesla and Toyota simply remove the steering wheel, pedals, handbrake, direction indicator and windscreen wiper and that’s it? After that, just carry on as before? I can already explain to you that this is not all. When vehicles control themselves, the interior designers suddenly ask themselves completely new questions. Instead of designing a safe and comfortable cockpit around a driver who is ideally not too distracted and defocused by additional functions, autonomous driving turns this skewer around. Finally, the designers of the automotive industry are allowed to design vehicles that revolve around the passenger and increase the experience within a moving tin box, because then all occupants are passenger and distraction is good!

What’s more, please consider what you can finally do while driving if you commute home after a long day at work or hunt for a customer appointment early in the morning. Finally, you can prepare or sleep, you can eat light-heartedly with both hands, daddling computer games or dealing with your family Aug in Aug. Incidentally, these scenarios do not come from science fiction fans, but from the production halls of the industry. Hardly any car manufacturer has already presented prototypes, but I personally find the collaboration between Toyota and Softbank in the monet joint venture most exciting. Unlike the competition from the established automotive industry, Monet has understood that Toyota will stop making money selling vehicles in a few years. In the logic of the “Mobility as a service” (MaaS) the booked trip applies, but rather the generated data about the ride and occupants as well as the premium services sold if necessary.

How will this work in the future? Two scenarios:

Friday, 11. February 2022. My presentation to the Frankfurt business partner went well and I leave his office at around 4:30 p.m. I’m looking forward to my best friend’s birthday party tonight – but I know full well that there are about 400 kilometers between the revolving door in front of me and my front door. Luckily, I no longer have to drive a rental car myself, because then I would need a good four hours for the journey with breaks and then I would have to sit at the desk at home and prepare the meeting and everything for my colleagues. I used to come to parties too late and inwardly agitated because of something like this. Instead, my Uber office is already waiting for me, because it knew, thanks to my calendar release and the activated extra interface, that I don’t need a Best Western Sleep or Starbucks Diner today. A vehicle that is about the size of an SUV of the 2010s opens its doors, I throw my backpack into the spacious interior, sit down to it – first stretch legs laaang – and say: “hello Uber, once home, please” – “everything clear, let’s go! We will reach your home at 20:19 if you don’t need a break on the way. I certainly don’t, my battery is fully charged!” I fold up the office chair with massage function, put my notebook on the table and start the preparation and preparation of the meeting. At 8:17 p.m. we roll out of my front door at my home, which gave me enough time to slip out of the meeting outfit and cycle to the party. At 9 p.m. I start at the party and am the first guest – and look into stunned faces: “You already here?!”
On the same day, Uncle Wilhelm has a lot in his place. In the morning the monthly check-up at the family doctor, in the afternoon shopping a few small things – a “real” supermarket and his idiosyncratic shopping list are still preferable to online orders – and in the evening chess games in the neighboring town. He was looking forward to driving himself for many years, so his Bosch taxi is on his doorstep at 7:50 in the morning to drive him to the city centre. Wilhelm’s favourite radio station BOB Radio is running on board. Less than ten minutes later, they reach the finish line. Instead of occupying a parking space in front of the medical center, the “taxi” steams off again after successful transport in order to receive further orders and navigate autonomously to the charging station. After the doctor’s appointment comes another taxi, this time from Lyft – the efficiency- and comfort-driven passenger couldn’t care which manufacturer or operator is behind the transport. Thanks to NFC recognition, payment is contactless and, for some providers, also automatically by direct debit with the old bank accounts. Since Uncle Wilhelm, like many others, looks at commercials on his smartphone or on the windshield during the driving time, which is now a mixed reality display, the fare for the three trips to the doctor, supermarket and chess friend is in total less than 10 euros. This scenario involves one of the biggest drivers of autonomous mobility: people who are not yet allowed to drive (children and adolescents) or are no longer (seniors or physically and mentally impaired) and thus, in 2018, still on the goodwill of motorized motorized relatives and acquaintances or on inflexible public transport solutions.

Zoom in: Who are the drivers of autonomous vehicles?

Sounds like utopia? From several reliable sources, I can say that this image is not utopian, but comes from the business model departments of various actors. The first prototypes even exist and are produced at the major trade fairs in the world (e.g. IAA) for some time. Suppliers such as Bosch are also getting ready for this new round of games and forging exciting alliances such as with Deutsche Telekom or the highly innovative IOTA Foundation. Much to the chagrin of established OEMs such as Daimler, Volkswagen or BMW. And on the other side of the big pond sits arch-rival of the German engineers, Tesla Motors by Elon Musk, Waymo from Alphabet, Uber, GM, Ford … and in Asia Baidu, Yutong, Nissan, Toyota and so many more. CBInsights has compiled the 44 largest players of autonomous development here.

The derivation is child’s play. In the industrialised countries, sales of passenger cars are stagnating or even declining. Markets are saturated. Manufacturers need to think about something new in order not to let the revenue streams dry up. We combine this with the computing power and computer size of computers, the advances in the development of machine learning et voilé: the foundation for a u-turn of the fundamental business model of classic car manufacturers is Placed. The race for an autonomous vehicle began with Elon Musk’s announcement that Tesla would produce the first autonomous vehicles in series with Tesla; Currently (May 2019), U.S. companies dominate, with Chinese manufacturers preparing to wobble at the Tesla throne.

They all do not necessarily belong to an altruist-motivated Salvation Army. No, they are tapping into the most valuable asset of consumers with the means of digitalization: time. Several million hours a day, people are behind the wheel in Germany alone. Assuming they were sitting in a vehicle (captive audience), they would have that time free for other things. For advertising. For entertainment. For relaxation. For purchase recommendations. This will be sold to consumers as “customer centricity”; in reality, of course, it is profit maximisation through additional offers.

Conclusion: Autonomous car is not the same as car

Our understanding of a car involves the idea that a person is actively operating the steering wheel, acceleration, brake, etc. influences the course of the journey. The moment we stop doing just that, but rather sit back in our app-ordered mobile office, hotel room or robotaxi, it’s no longer a car. My prognosis is that in Germany by 2030 at the latest, we will even see the first large-scale bans on man-made vehicles. Elsewhere, of course, much earlier, not only Silicon Valley is known to be far ahead of us, Dubai, of course, France wants to become a European pioneer.

anyway. We will no longer call these self-driving vehicles cars, but we will have to find a new concept for them. to have to? to become. This is a normal process of human evolution. As I said, today we are not talking about mechanical horses, if we actually mean cars… they will be mobile purpose fulfillers. And in a few decades, your grandchildren will ask you, “How do you mean that, Grandma, you had a driver’s license? That was allowed?!”

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