Mobility of the Future: Product to Service

Experts meet in Berlin to discuss the Future of Mobility at the Economic Summit

22/11/2016 Berlin

Prof. Sandra Sieber | IESE Business School
According to Sieber, one of the central challenges lies in the transition between the driver and the autopilot / Photo: David Adamson

We will travel more. Mobility will become easier and cheaper. These were the key messages from Prof. Sandra Sieber at a panel discussion on "The Future of Mobility" at the 2016 SZ Economic Summit in Berlin. In discussion with Alexander Sixt, chairman of the German car rental company Sixt SE, Prof. Sieber stressed the importance of sharing data so that providers can see locations, profiles and mobility patterns.

For example, if a traveler opts for an e-bike connection from a train station instead of a taxi. To make this possible, many more interfaces must be linked in "total connectedness…. I have to allow a system to work for me predictively," she said. The key to success here is the trustworthiness of providers with regard to data privacy and protection, she explained, adding that even millennials aren’t willing to share their data without restrictions.

Concerning fast market readiness of driverless cars, Alexander Sixt is skeptical. Although we are already in the first phase of cars parking backwards autonomously, he estimates that it will take ten to fifteen years before fully autonomous models take to the roads, in part due to legal reasons. All liability currently lies with the manufacturer.

Car sharing with these types of vehicles would be a great opportunity for a rental company, he said, since all these cars need to be acquired, serviced and managed. Quoting a recent study by the Technische Universität München (TUM), he remarked that just 20% of all young people obtain a driver’s license and four to eight private cars can be replaced by just one optimally used car sharing vehicle. With its range of rental, car sharing and driver services, Sixt sees his company as being well-positioned for the future.

According to Sieber, one of the central challenges lies in the transition between the driver and the autopilot – long-distance drives will be easier to handle. With cars perhaps one day being strung together similarly to trains, "we will see different concepts and models here," she said. The professor believes that much faster development is possible, with near-term results in turn bringing legal solutions. In response to the question of the "game changer," Sieber named connection via API, application programming interface.

"Mobility will become cheaper," Sieber argued, since fewer cars will stand idle and the overall need for parking will decrease. "We are in a preliminary stage and we will soon see an exponential development," says the expert.

With a view to trends such as jet sharing, which is in demand in the U.S., Sieber points to a lack of data: "We still don’t know what the end customer really wants." Many services seem to be mere "trial and error," but trying out ideas is what is needed. While analysts believe the driving service provider Uber is overvalued by a factor of about 10 (Sixt: “They’re burning through a lot of money there”), the company is extremely good at discovering opportunities. In many cases, Sieber stressed, "burning money is necessary" in order to get to real innovation.