Our Future Mobility Now

A while ago I was asked to join the event Our Future Mobility Now in Brussels. For two days more than 40 young people (between 18 and 30 years), called “delegates”, Europe’s biggest car manufacturers and politicians came together, in order to talk about the “future of mobility”. The event was organized by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA).

The background for this event was:

Communications technology is helping us stay always on, always connected, and always social. But how will our digital lifestyles shape reality on the move?

Our Future Mobility Now gives young people direct access to the industry’s cutting-edge thinkers, designers, and top CEOs. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to influence the transport, design and mobility decisions that will shape the future – by participating online and at major events across Europe.
(via futuremobilitynow.com)

Well the question how digital technologies change urban living and also transportation was already something our event Cognitive Cities was about. Of course these questions interest me. But somehow I was also skeptical towards the event, it was organized by the ACEA and all the car manufacturers would attend. So I was curious if the event and especially all the young people were just used as a marketing tool. But the event was nice, and very interesting.

Day 1

It started with a welcome breakfast at the Autoworld Museum, where all the young delegates met each other. There were 44 people from almost 20 different countries. A very mixed group of designers, engineers, business students, law students, chemists, markting people and more.

After the welcome speech by the Secretary General of ACEA, Ivan Hodac, the young people were separated into four different groups. Each of the groups had one main topic which represents the four main aspects the event was about.

  • Skills for the Future
  • Urban Communities Tomorrow
  • New Mobility Services
  • Future Technologies

Gladly I was selected for the second workshop about Urban Communities Tomorrow. Every group had two experts from the automobile industry. In our workshop was Christiane Krebs-Hartmann, who works for Future Affairs at Volkswagen and Dr. Stephan Herbst, Senior Manager Toyota Motor Europe. These two gave us interesting insights into what their companies are working on right now and how they vision the mobility, especially in the urban spaces. The facilitator of our group was Peter Fleischer, Partner and Senior Counselor for Ketchum from Chicago, a very cool guy.

We did some brainstorming, came up with ideas for still existing and future challenges. We worked on some ideas until they were ready to be presented the next day infront of all the CEOs of several car companies, politicians, and press people. Our main idea was to use already existing technologies and systems but it is important that a societal change takes place within the consumers, as well as within the companies and politicians.

Our main idea focussed on internet of things. The connection between “things” will create data which we would like to give back to the citizens, in order to create ideas, apps, technologies. And a connected transportation system that is based on the data. A personal travel guide which works best for you, either you chose to focus on time, the environment or on costs – local, nation wide and throughout Europe. Mainly you can visualize it with the following video by Nordkap and Urbanscale. I found the video at the blog of Third Wave, and it visualizes perfectly what we imagined for the future in urban spaces. The thing is, that the ideas as well as the technology still exist, but there needs to be a way to realize all that.

Day 2

On the second day the main event took place. 9 CEOs from Volkswagen, Volvo, Renault, Toyota, and other car manufacturers as well as CEOs from Microsoft, FIA or the Chairman of European Democrat Students, and several politicians, like the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission Vice-President and Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, and even the Prime Minister of Belgium, Yves Leterme, attended the event.

The workshop-groups got together to finalized their ideas and in order to collect questions which the young delegates wanted to ask the CEOs and politicians. During the event we heard some interesting but also some not that interesting talks and discussions with the different people mentioned above. The young delegates presented their ideas to the CEOs and politicians, and then we had some Q&As with the officials.

But one thing really impressed me. Most of the young people were so excited to see and hear Dieter Zetsche, member of the Board of Management and Chairman of Daimler AG. He was like a Mark Zuckerberg for all the car people. Back in Germany I read the wikipedia article about Zetsche, he is an interesting man. He built his career himself through hard work, until he became the top boss of of the biggest companies in the world.

Within his speech he told us, that he wishes that young people would take more risks. He would like to have more people like Ferdinand Porsche, Karl Benz or other big names of the early automobile industry. They were in their late twenties when they revolutionized mobility. Zetsche wished for young people who would take risks – young entrepreneurs (like in the digital world), who will revolutionize the mobility world again.
His speech was not filled with bullshit words or anything not really relevant, his speech really got me. And that was something I didn’t really expected. All the young delegates listened very interested and entranced. After the speech everybody tried to make a photograph with him. But Zetsche also took some time and had conversations with the young people.

Conclusion

Well, it is not easy to say if the event was a success. I guess, the event itself was, kind of. But the idea was that the event was just the official start of a connection between young “talents”, the industry and the politics. A great idea. But I think in order to keep it sustainable and in order to make the young delegates feel taken seriously, it is important to do something with the ideas and the conversations. So far the ACEA’s first idea was a community where the communication should go on and the other idea was the Book of Ideas, where all the ideas of the workshops are presented. During the event some graphic facilitators, named Scriberia, visualized the ideas, the talks and some statements. (See their works here at @checkdisout’s photos). Their works are also in the Book of Ideas. They did some great and funny stuff!

So, I really hope that the exchange goes on and that the ideas/comments of the young delegates are taken seriously. I saw some attempts – for example Christiane Krebs-Hartmann of VW, offered the young people to work on the topics we were talking about, either during a bachelor thesis or an internship at her department. That was a great idea, she knew that these people are really into these topics and Mrs Krebs-Hartmann offered a great opportunity to get first experiences in these fields. I thought I would see more of these exchanges.

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1 Comment

  • Christiane

    Dear Markus, I think you really did a good conclusion of the event. Coming back from my vacations I will soon get in clear contact with one of the young people for an internship here at Volkswagen.

    I also hope the dialogue will go on!

    Best regards

    Christiane

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