Earlier this month, I attended The Future of Transportation World Conference in Cologne, Germany. Covering all forms of transportation—cars, railways, new train concepts, public transportation, and air travel—it was the most comprehensive futurist event on mobility I’d ever attended. Here are a few insights from the conference.
Tony Robinson kicked off the conference by welcoming 600 international attendees. In 2014, Tony had written, “I don’t expect to see flying cars any time soon.” This year, he concluded his welcome with the statement: “What’s set to happen in the next 15 years may make good decisions of today look like very bad ones rather soon.” The future is wide open—and that’s what we spent the next two days discussing.
Opening panel – New transportation models
Before breaking into specialized tracks, the conference featured an opening panel of forward-thinkers in the transportation industry.
Mathias Thomsen, GM Urban Air Mobility at Airbus, shared some of Airbus’s pilot and concept projects – including the CityAirbus, an electric vertical take-off and landing drone. He also talked about their autonomous parcel transport drone, called Skyways. Crazy stuff ahead from Airbus!
Dominique Laousse is head of Innovation and Prospective at SNCF, France’s national railroad (which runs one of the world’s fastest trains, the TGV). His claim is that trains remain a vital mode of transportation – and that Hyperloop is the competitor of the airplane, not the TGV.
Mark Thomas, VP Marketing of Ridecell, presented a vision of the changing automotive model, from vehicle ownership to on-demand services. His perspective is that the mobility services market of the future will be similar to the airline market, where many brands compete with different value propositions and form alliances to achieve global scale.
Eight tracks on four floors
A comprehensive conference is not easy to navigate! I found myself running up and down four floors to catch the most interesting presentations from eight different streams:
- Getting transportation off the ground
- Legal and technical issues of autonomous vehicles
- The challenge for rail
- Vision zero
- Quantum shifts
- Environmental sustainability
- The changing landscape for car manufacturers
- Infrastructure and project funding
I chose to focus on Stream 7: The changing landscape for car manufacturers. Given the nature of Ridecell’s business of enabling carsharing and ridesharing services, I wanted to see what auto OEMs, consultants, and Tier 1 suppliers were talking about in these sessions.
As part of Stream 7, Ridecell presented a session called “Carsharing and ridesharing – many services, one fleet (and other ways to increase utilisation).” Unique to Ridecell, our multiservice approach – where one fleet of vehicles powers multiple mobility services—is the key to making a profit in the new mobility industry.
Will we get the future right?
With autonomous mobility services on the horizon, I believe we’ll see today’s concept of a car transform into something entirely different. Think about dining cars, dating coaches, and entertainment-themed vehicles that we can enjoy en route to our destination. I was particularly excited by Karel Golta’s presentation (Karel is CEO of INDEED) and his futuristic ideas about the future transportation lifestyle.
One thing is for sure: The Future of Transportation is an exciting show. I’m looking forward to attending the conference next year in Amsterdam!
Author: Daniel Priem, Senior Account Director, Ridecell EMEA