Mobility is not a one way street

In the car industry, cross-pollination of ideas between all parties is paramount to their mutual success.

by Philipp von Hagen


The need for collaboration across all industries is on the rise. One of the clearest examples of an industry with collaboration opportunities is the car industry. Today, automotive incumbents have widely accepted that collaboration with innovative companies in other business areas, such as software, is necessary for future success. Yet this process is a two-way-street, and the cross-pollination of ideas between all parties is paramount to their mutual success.

It has been undoubtedly positive for the traditional car industry to have newcomers challenging their business. By shaking up the industry, they have reinvigorated traditional car makers in welcoming more radical innovation than in the past. Before, we saw typically more linear improvements whilst today we are seeing significant and exponential innovation.

It is important for these players to take these challengers seriously. Many still do not entirely understand how disruptive this shift may be. However, the newer players are also on track to be surprised by how much work lies ahead. A worthwhile car is not that easy to make. And producing such a quality capital good in high volumes, whilst meeting all of the necessary durability and safety requirements, is extremely complex. Many of the new players will begin to see some challenges, especially in terms of quality, that they have not really factored in yet.

A car needs to operate under extreme conditions. Whether that be in 40-degree heat or 20 degrees below freezing, in heavy rain or in dry snow, a car needs to perform reliably and under a lot of strain. This is not at all easy, and there is still significant hardware based elements in mobility today – the car itself, the fulfilment part of mobility, is something that requires a lot of a lot of experience to build. After all, lives may depend on it.

So although the pendulum has initially swung a lot towards data companies, we see it swinging back towards the car manufacturers – putting them also in a strong position going forward as a partner in the mobility ecosystem as new players struggle to build a sustainable business.

Collaboration is key even in the broadest sense, and a key factor in increasing adoption rates in businesses is the creation of industry standard interfaces. Now is the moment where the mobility industry needs to define such standards in order to mitigate hurdles for innovation – we can all recall the nightmare of incompatible power adapters for mobile devices until it had been whittled down to two: Apple and the USB. With electrical mobility, for instance, the Combined Charging Standard (CCS) is such a standard interface facilitating a more rapid adoption and investment in infrastructure without the need to carry a car boot full of adapters.

Finally, there are partnerships. I consider them to be increasingly important as there is a lot of innovation and expertise across different entities. We are bringing together data driven companies with engineering driven companies and their respective skill sets are very different. Yet they are both essential for new products and services – so we should see a lot more partnerships emerging in this ecosystem. One example of this changing face of mobility is HERE, the open location platform acquired by Audi, BMW and Daimler that also lists Intel, Bosch and Continental as its shareholders.

In short, the story of mobility today isn’t the collapse of the old and the rise of the new – it’s both. The faster both parties understand this, the better able they will be to navigate the untraveled roads ahead.