Mobility systems in the digital upheaval – is our value creation driving away?

This was the question posed by the Münchner Kreis in Potsdam at the two-day symposium „Mobility Systems“ in the digital upheaval at the end of March 2019, where experts from science and practice spoke and discussed the following questions in workshops and presentations:

  1. How is the value chain of mobility changing?
  2. What does service centring mean for the future mobility ecosystem #SMARTMobility and #SMARTCities
  3. How is Europe preparing for the #SMARTMobility offensive from China and America?

The Münchner Kreis is a non-profit registered association, which has been dealing with questions of technology, society, economy and regulation in the field of information and telecommunication technologies and media since 1974. Its aim is to provide people in leadership positions with guidance on digital transformation. The current chairman of the board is Prof Dr Michael Dowling.
I was a participant on behalf of the Bundesverband eMobilität BEM e.V. as their scientific advisory board and representative for Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) and China. Representatives of all affected sectors were present, only the automotive industry was shining by absence and was missing as an important expert and power promoter of our future mobility systems.

Diagnosis Germany: Mobility infarction

Mobility is one of the most urgent social challenges of the 21st century and the basis of our global economy. This makes it a driver of growth and prosperity. The freedom to move ourselves and our goods across borders and continents is an important pillar of our quality of life or basis of life, and these in turn are strongly influenced by the change in our climate. Professor Andreas Herman, Director of the Institute Customer Insights at the University of St. Gallen, even declared mobility to be a human right. On our own doorstep in Germany, we are currently experiencing a mobility infarction: On the road, rail and in the air, our mobility behavior is exceeding capacity limits, is very expensive and is characterized by time lost due to traffic jams, air pollution and extremely high land consumption in cities.

Figure 1: Dr. Mara Cole, Director Connected Mobility at Zentrum Digitalisierung Bayern and Dr. Nico Grove, CEO Institute for Infrastructure Economics & Management, summarize the results of the workshops.

Who owns the city as a living space?

On average, 50% of urban public space in major European cities is dedicated to cars, compared to 70% in Los Angeles. The cityscape is dominated by streets and parking lots and this automatically leads to more traffic. Our infrastructure has grown with the increasing volume of traffic – instead of building humane cities, car-friendly cities have been built since the 1950s. The consequences range from polluted air to traffic jams in almost all large and small cities. Last year, air pollution from diesel exhaust gases was higher than permitted in 57 German cities. Initial measures have led to the EU limit value for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is harmful to health, being met in eight cities. (Source; in German)

Does it have to be like this? The answer is no when Oliver Bertram, architect, urban planner and founder of Wideshot Design GmbH in Vienna, presents his vision of the future. He radically puts people and their needs at the centre of his vision. He demands a higher quality of life, more open spaces, more green, areas for temporary use, safe streets and residential quarters. Today, vehicles in Vienna are on the move for about 1 hour and spend 23 hours in parking areas. In the future, with #SmartMobility and #SMARTCity solutions this ratio can be reversed. So 1 hour standstill and 23 hours the vehicle should be in motion. According to his estimate, this will make 60-80% of all parking spaces obsolete and grey parking spaces could turn into green meeting areas:


Figure 2: Parking in Vienna (AU)           Figure 3: Simulation (

According to the calculations of the German Federal Ministry of Economics, 50 % of our value added in Germany is directly and indirectly dependent on the automobile. This could change radically in the coming years: Platforms from the USA, batteries from Asia and „robo-taxis“ will redefine the value chain of mobility of people and goods using low-cost standard hardware.

There is a lot at stake. If the digital platform for autonomous driving with artificial intelligence in the car of the future were to come from the USA and the battery from Asia, Germany and Europe would lose more than 50 percent of the value added in this area. The associated effects would extend far beyond the automotive industry. This problem therefore affects not only the companies in the sector, but all economic and state players equally.

Extract from the national industrial strategy 2030, BMWi

Mobility-as-a-Service based on a traffic management system

All this leads to a transformation of today’s motorized individual transport (MIV) and to an optimized Mobility as a Service (MaaS) system. There was a broad consensus among the experts that a comprehensive „Traffic Management System“ (VMS) is needed as a foundation. This system controls all traffic according to demand and integrates all other means of transport. An integrated VMS enables mobility services on the one hand and takes into account our data protection in Europe as a very specific challenge on the other.

Prof. Florian Matthes, Head of the Chair for Software Engineering of Business Information Systems at the Technical University of Munich, conducted a study in the Munich region in 2018 and showed that the various transport modes and sectors have little or no willingness to share a common platform. The trend is towards many different individual solutions, with each provider optimizing its own goals for itself.

Whether the customer will accept this remains to be seen. For my part, I don’t want to use more than two dozen different platforms/app services, as is currently the case, but a provider who is planning my trip from Munich to Berlin, for example. This platform should suggest me (m)an ideal combination of public transport, bicycles, scooters and vehicles. Individually based on my mobility behaviour and my mobility data from the past.

#SmartMobility needs this integrated traffic management for this. According to the Treaty of Rome, the EU has the obligation to design this new #SMARTMobility in such a way that on the one hand competition remains, on the other hand mobility in the EU is realized barrier-free and European data protection regulations are observed. This means that uniform EU licensing conditions and communication standards for VMS and autonomous driving are required – from #SmartData as a basis and control option with regard to planning, but also flexible capacity utilization, right up to real-time coordination between different means of transport. Although these new technologies, Mobility as a Service and also autonomous mobility, are „ante portas“, no activity of this kind has yet become known on a European level, according to the lawyer Dr. Lang, partner at the law firm Bird&Bird. His suggestion: The traffic management system belongs to the infrastructure and thus becomes a public task. Private and public companies, including start-ups, can acquire licences under conditions to be determined and will be given access to the VMS, providing the traffic data in anonymised form. Blockchain technology could serve as a basis here in the future. The billing between mobility platforms and means of transport, the coordination and exchange of data are thus made possible in a secure and anonymous manner. (Source; in German)

#SmartMobility offensive from America and China

Is it possible to find an overall European solution? Will there be a solution in Germany or only individual solutions of suppliers and municipalities? Does our policy oversleep the trend and leave the field to the technology giants and market leaders from America and China? These are questions to which we must now find an answer.

Europe can learn from China and America. Both countries are far ahead of us in mobility issues and the first #SmartMobility solutions have already been successfully implemented. Both countries could not be more different in their approaches.

The approach in the USA is:

Business models are developed based on the user and his needs. These are integrated into an overall system without a clearly understood effect – according to purely market-based guidelines.

The approach in China is:

A solution is developed by the government for the entire country after central planning and then these are made as usable as possible for the travelers – quasi planned economy guidelines.

#SmartMobility made in Europe?!

Claudia Plattner from Deutsche Bahn and Michael Hanke from Detecon AG (Munich) devoted themselves to this topic. Europe could combine the best of both systems. An implementation plan which has been consistently thought through after a clear formulation of objectives and whose solution elements have already been developed with and for the travellers. Europe can and should find its own way here, taking into account our social values and principles, such as protection of privacy. Another way of dealing with data protection is the optional and transparent provision of personal data in return for added value, such as the planning and implementation of individual mobility needs.

The race for the supremacy of #SMARTMobility solutions, which will be strongly characterized by autonomous, safe, sustainable and intelligent mobility, is on. We should adopt a credo from the USA and China: „Done is better than perfect“. The expertise, networks and think tanks (including Fraunhofer, Max Plank, Aurora, BEM e.V., Münchner Kreis) are available in Germany. The inventor country of the automobile and the railway should now actively drive the mobility revolution and take a leading role again.