Value systems regarding how we use technology, autonomous driving and mobility in modern society—these were the topics of a talk at the Mercedes-Benz Museum.
Sweeping changes in the field of mobility pose considerable challenges for both manufacturers and society. In order to understand and shape this change, the Deutsche Telekom initiated a series of ‘museum talks’ on digital responsibility. These were held in Stuttgart in mid-November. The topic: ‘The future of mobility: connected, autonomous and smart’. The Mercedes-Benz Museum opened its doors to a group of experts who held a lively discussion, while over 200 guests listened.
Thanks to VR (virtual reality), some guests were even able to peer into the future that same evening; museum talk visitors were invited to use VR glasses to go on a virtual excursion—for instance, right to the centre of a busy sports event, with a 360-degree view of the entire scene. VR glasses are connected devices which indicate what the digital technology of the future could look like.
In the heart of a football stadium using VR glasses
In 2020 there will be over 20 billion connected devices worldwide, Steffen Braun, Head of Mobility and Urban Systems Engineering at the Fraunhofer-Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO), said, citing current estimates. This figure also includes cars. Modern vehicles are already communicating with one other and with the infrastructure. ‘Connectivity is growing in all sectors, in public life and in private households,’ Braun explained. ‘This development is unstoppable.’ It is often discussed whether this is good or bad, and whether autonomous driving is good or bad. However, scientists maintain that the technology in itself is neutral; it depends on how we as humans use it. For this reason, it is the responsibility of humans to create their own value system. ‘It is up to us to decide how we want to shape mobility,’ Braun says.
It is up to us to decide how we want to shape mobility.
The host of the talk, Astrid Maier, Head of the Innovation and Digital department of the German economy magazine ‘WirtschaftsWoche’ asked, ‘Do we need ethics for the use of technology?’ Anette Bronder, Managing Director of the Digital Division of T-Systems and Telekom Security, responsible for networked mobility, transitioned the discussion to future mobility, ‘Ethics are of great importance for autonomous driving, such as to establish appropriate rules for this new coexistence on the road.’ Value systems are significant for new technologies, in general, Bronder pointed out, citing data use as an example, ‘It must always be clear to customers whether they are providing data for commercial use and whether they are in control of their personal data.’
‘In the future, autonomous vehicles should be designed in a way that we understand them,’ Alexander Mankowsky, futurologist at Daimler AG and specialist in innovations for future mobility, says. ‘It should be clear to both drivers and pedestrians what a vehicle is doing. The aim is for a co-operative coexistence. The same applies to all automated objects to come in the future.’
Not everything will be implemented in autonomous driving simply because the technology permits it, Mankowsky says. ‘There will also never be a complete connectivity of all modes of transportation, nor will all aspects of personal mobility be completely accounted for with autonomous vehicles.’ There will always be a mixture of older and very modern vehicles. Autonomous mobility is also not practical for all user groups.
The car of the future has to be smart, Ghazaleh Koohestanian, founder and Managing Director of Re2you, says. Her objective for Re2you is to bring the connected world into cars. ‘For example, it detects how tall I am and automatically adjusts the seat and all control elements accordingly.’ Mobility itself continues to have an immense significance, according to Koohestanian. ‘In modern society, it is important to be flexible, to meet the demands of our individual time schedules, for instance.’
However, it seems we will have to get used to not owning our own car. Koohestanian: ‘Yes, it is convenient to own your own car, but it is not always environmentally friendly.’ Of course there will still be cars, the technology entrepreneur says, but they will be part of a comprehensive mobility platform spanning various modes of transport. For each trip, users will purchase the appropriate level of mobility.
People will still be free to make decisions about the terms of their mobility.
The experts at the museum talk also discussed the enormous challenges that vehicle manufacturers face to shape the technological and economical change. ‘A company can only exist if it has good ideas. This allows it to convince employees and customers,’ Alexander Mankowsky says, citing the Mercedes-Benz corporate strategy ‘CASE’, which stands for ‘Connected, Autonomous, Shared & Service and Electric Drive’. ‘A lot is changing at the company at the moment. Many old rules and practices are being discarded,’ he reports. ‘There is an atmosphere of change, which, in turn, will influence future mobility products.’ The scope and details are as yet unclear. But one thing is certain, ‘People will still be free to make decisions about the terms of their mobility.’