Why the German Auto Industry Needs to Stay on the Ball
Interview with Dr Sven Beiker, Silicon Valley Mobility LLC
The market for mobility services is booming, and that matters for traditional automotive manufacturers too. Companies like Apple and Google may have dropped their plans to build autonomous vehicles in house, but mobility patterns will still change radically in the next few decades. At the CTI Symposium Berlin we spoke to Dr Sven Beiker, managing director of mobility consultants Silicon Valley Mobility LLC (Palo Alto) and executive director at the Center for Automotive Research (Stanford).
CTI: On stage today, you gave the audience insights into Silicon Valley and the way people there are talking about tomorrow’s automobiles. Is there any chance automobiles might stay en vogue?
Dr Sven Beiker: Yes, I think so. For the simple reason that automobiles are a basic requirement for mobility, or individual mobility at least. We’re seeing a lot of different approaches in Silicon Valley. Some only address the business model that underlies mobility, but there are definitely a few approaches I’d call serious that plan to evolve automobiles themselves. So I believe automobiles will still be around, but they will definitely change a lot.
CTI: Because of your career path you’re familiar with both worlds – mechanical engineering and the German automobile industry, and Silicon Valley in recent years. Are the two worlds converging? Or are the differences still so big that people in Germany might have reason to fear developments there?
Beiker: I’m really glad to say they are converging gradually, whereas three or four years ago it was more a case of ‘Silicon Valley versus the automotive establishment’. What we’re seeing now in Silicon Valley is that some actors are saying clearly ‘Okay, traditional automobiles, we’re not going into detail there, there are other companies for that. Then maybe we’ll set autonomous driving or the business model on top of what they do’. And people in Germany are becoming a little more self-confident, which I’d say is healthy, and saying ‘Actually yes, we can partner with Silicon Valley.’ But when you ask ‘Should we be worried?’ I think we should definitely think carefully about how to stay on the ball. Because things are going to change. You won’t still be able to just build a car, sell it, then see the customer again in four years’ time if you’re lucky. There are other business models now too – ones that come more from the digital world and can be transferred to automobiles.