The Masterplan: MOBILITY FOR ALL! – The Disruption of the Automotive Industry and Reinvention of Mobility

All Credits to Johann Jungwirth | Original Post

Many of us aren’t aware yet how historical the times we live in are. Because not just the automobile is being reinvented through the digital revolution, also the mobility itself is being reinvented: self-driving vehicles without steering wheel and pedals will be driving people and goods through the first cities in just a few years. Overall we are experiencing at the moment the disruption of the automotive industry in three dimensions which are orthogonal to each other:

  1. Digitalization: from human drivers to self-driving vehicles
  2. Sustainability: from combustion engines to electric drive
  3. Urbanization: from ownership to shared mobility

This will lead to progress of society and especially the increase of our quality of life as the transition from horses to cars and trucks over 100 years ago. I don’t foresee this in the distant future, e.g. in the years 2030 or 2035, but actually in the next 3 to 5 years, in which we will form this new world. Until 2025 it will be very common in many cities and regions around the world to get from A to B in self-driving vehicles. In front of us lies a unique and fascinating time travel to full autonomy, as owned autonomy as well as shared autonomy.

Today very tight spots, no available parking places, traffic jams and stress while driving is dominating our life in the downtown areas. Look for example at Berlin with these typical streets with vehicles parked left and right:

Let’s look at the same street in 2025, which will look very differently:

Because autonomous vehicles will pick us up and drop us off directly at the doorstep and park and re-charge itself self-driving outside the busy city centers, the downtown on-street parking areas will become available for e.g. additional lanes, wider pedestrian walk-ways, safe bicycle lanes or other use.

Here my next example along the same lines: it is unbelievable how many valuable properties in core city center areas are wasted for parking lots or parking garages. Look for example at Houston, Texas:

Here is my vision for 2025 of Houston, Texas:

There will be many different great uses and creative options for these very valuable inner city areas, e.g. for additional parks, children playgrounds, shopping malls, office and condo buildings, homes, and all of this in the best city center locations in the world. Location, location, location! Wouldn’t this be desirable?

Let me name an additional positive development. Look at how little or no individual mobility we offer to the weakest amongst us – the elderly, the blind, the sick and our children:

They have to walk by foot or take their wheelchairs which is very difficult to public transportation stations or take very expensive taxis or mobility-on-demand. The demographic change is worsening this situation even further. In my opinion this is unacceptable, and we can change and solve this!

In the new mobility world all people will be included, we will offer accessibility for everyone:

We will transport these people conveniently and without hassles from door to door, or by a press of a button or a speech command like: “My Audi, I am ready.” or “My Volkswagen, please pick me up.” Such services will offer to users an enormous increase of quality of life. This will allow these friends and family members an easier access to and participation in their social life. Can you imagine how thankful these people would be? In addition this opens a huge new market and demand which is basically unused at the moment.

An additional example of the endless opportunities of autonomous driving: What would you say if we could save up to 1.25 million lives per year, and this year after year? That’s how many people die every year in traffic, about 91% of these due to human errors. The minimization of vehicle accidents will be reality soon in the first parts of the world because self-driving vehicles don’t have a second reaction time, they don’t get distracted, they don’t overlook red lights, they don’t drink alcohol or take drugs, they don’t get tired or fall asleep, they have 20 eyes around the vehicle at all times not just two, and they can even see in the dark. The basis for this builds new sensors technology, artificial intelligence, exponentially growing compute power and real-time communication and connectivity.

And what would you say if I communicate to you today that we could offer to everyone 37,668 valuable hours, for free? This is 4,3 years, and the time which all of us spend in our vehicles driving on average in our lifetime. Until today this is manly lost time. Think about traffic jams, stop-and-go in the city, or the wasted time searching for parking, which is about 30% of driving that takes place in cities today. We will give this time back to people and allow them to travel fully relaxed even in their cars, and will offer them possibilities to relax, work, communicate, or to enjoy the surroundings like the nature they travel through, to play with their children, or enjoy a movie, or concert in their private musical hall, and much more.

Wouldn’t it be a dream come true, to be able to sleep in the lounge of your vehicle after a busy day and arrive fully relaxed and full of energy at Lake Tahoe or the beach the next morning? Or to enjoy a movie in highest fidelity sound and on a large screen TV while driving?

More room, more time, higher quality of life, higher productivity, lower cost, accessible, on demand and higher safety: all of this will be offered in the future to people with self-driving, fully connected automobiles. 

I definitely would love to live in this future and will make this happen. And it is near and dear to my heart, that our children will have a better, a safer, a more convenient, a stress-free as well as a more beautiful life. And all of this without giving up individual mobility and the freedom that comes with it. We as the Volkswagen Group with our great 12 brands like Porsche, Audi and Volkswagen, with our cross-functional teams and I myself are working day and night to invent this future and to make all of this happen as soon as possible. I am very optimistic and it is a blessing and honor to live in a generation of leaders that is able to implement this!

The automotive industry is undergoing historical times, with massive, massive change. This is gigantic and for us as Volkswagen Group on the one hand a huge challenge which we enjoy, and on the other hand an even greater opportunity to improve the lives of millions and millions of people around the world and offer mobility for all! And to leave our planet better than we found it.

You can now probably imagine how people felt over 100 years ago when the first motor vehicles drove on the streets full of horses with carriages. I have full understanding that we again have many with doubts today, the same as back then. People wich look much more at the risks than this opportunities. Let us convince these people together! We should support the brave, the bold, the visionaries, and the inventors to ensure that also the first reinvention of the automobile will be widely accepted and a success, and that the regulations and laws will be changed quickly to allow these products to be certified and released to market. Of course we will demonstrate the safety of these self-driving vehicles and the redundant technology.

We as Volkswagen Group want to drive this transition and lead the way, that’s why we are increasing the development speed and the investments in these important innovations fields of digitalization and autonomy, and we have created a new structure in our organization for this. With this the Volkswagen Group will advance from an automotive manufacturer to become a leading mobility provider with the goal to offer each and every person on the planet individual accessible mobility – with the mentality, the mindset and the agility of Silicon Valley.

In the last century the engine was the heart of the automobile and the driver was its brain. In this century the self-driving system (SDS) which replaces the driver will become the heart of the automobile and the mobility platform to book mobility-on-demand will be it’s brain. The self-driving system on the basis of artificial intelligence with 360 degrees laser, radar, cameras and ultrasonic sensors, central computing unit and redundancy as well as the mobility platform and the mobility control center for the autonomous fleet are mainly software and very complex software algorithms: from the perception and sensor fusion to the object detection, the situation analysis, the path planning and decision making logic on the basis of artificial intelligence and machine learning, all the way to the self-learning high-definition map which we are developing with our partner HERE which we acquired with partners.

This means that we will develop our company to become an integrated hardware, software and services company in order to manage this transition and digital transformation successfully and to develop new business opportunities and market potential with mobility services. Alan Kay said over 30 years ago: “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.” We at Volkswagen agree and see the exact same way. And our huge competitive advantage is that we have already perfected the hardware over many decades. Since our future will depend on it, we have to and will execute on the software and services development with the same focus and attention to details as on the hardware development.

Our vision as part of our new Together – Strategy 2025 is to be a globally leading provider of sustainable mobility. For this we have reorganized our design department for the digital age. For the start we are setting up three new „Volkswagen Group Future Center” in Europe, Asia and California, where design and digital experts create the vehicles of the future. In the Future Center Europe in Potsdam near Berlin we have already started working in this collaborative approach and until the end of the year also the Future Center Asia in Beijing as well as the Future Center California in Silicon Valley will be up and running. Such a cross-functional melting of digitalization and design, with work hand in hand to create and implement the interior, exterior, and the user experience design and engineering of our products and services is very unique and groundbreaking in the automotive industry. Integral, direct and with an absolute focus on our customers, their needs, wishes and dreams with design thinking and customer centricity! Also with this approach and exponential thinking we are bringing part of the Silicon Valley culture, and its mindset and attitude to the Volkswagen Group and our great brands. The goal: our vehicles should reach maximum ratings and should be best-in-class in customer satisfaction, user experience, interface-design, user interaction, new interior concepts as well as info- and entertainment. Of course best connectivity with the cloud and seamless experience with the customer’s smartphone and smart home are part of the best-in-class digital user experience, as well as over-the-air software updates and upgrades, which keep our vehicles always up-to-date and offer continuously new services to our customers.

The digitalization also allows us the creation of our own eco-system across all of our brands and products, in which customers and users will receive the best customer experience in the industry, as we are used to from our digital life outside the vehicle. Our car will become our best friend which understands us, which talks to us, which learns our habits and our preferences to be able to serve us perfectly well. The Budd-e of our Volkswagen brand has already shown at CES where this is heading.

I am convinced that this customer experience will be fascinating. Fully electric and zero-emission, self-driving vehicles which can even be accessed on demand will not just bring us closer to safe accident-free driving, but also offer great driving pleasure as we have shown with our Audi RS7 piloted driving concept last year on the race track. Because emotions, performance und fun to drive will also be important factors in the future.

To create this future, to have the opportunity to have a significant impact on the reinvention of the automobile and the reinvention of mobility, that drives all of us at the Volkswagen Group, that drives me personally, this is bigger then ourselves.

Future generations will look back at our and previous generations since the first invention of the automobile in 1886 and say: these poor people which still had to drive the vehicles themselves. It will be so normal that people don’t need a drivers license and not even own a car to be able to get to places in a most convenient way which everyone can effort: we will increase social mobility and democratize transportation.

And we will develop completely new vehicles concepts with e.g. just a large portal door on the right for easy access, and vehicles will look more like rooms of our homes, and offer the variety as from the condo to the luxury mansion. With the vehicle as our luxury lounge, or living room, or movie theater, or musical hall, or office or anything we want or need it to be at any time!

That’s why I also like Alan Kay’s quote: „The best way to predict the future is to invent it.“

In this sense we are reinventing the car, we are reinventing mobility and we will do everything possible together with many partners and our best employees to lead this revolution.