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Uber tops them all.

Airlines of the highways.

We all know the situations: you buy an Apple smartphone – but it only works if you sign a contract with the network provider. You book a flight with an airline, but the plane that gets you into the air is built by Airbus. The same model is now being applied to cars. Today, around 130 years after its birth, the automobile industry is in a state of radical change. Once upon a time, it was the classic carmakers who wooed drivers with promises of personal and personalised mobility. Today, they face stiff competition from software-based rideshare providers. Although they don’t build cars, they and their ridesharing concepts may well be in a position to dictate future developments in the global automotive segment. They make people mobile and relieve them of the necessity of owning their own cars.

Is this a long-term threat to the continuing existence of our classical business model? Will we soon live in a world in which no one owns their own car? Are we ultimately at the mercy of mobility providers?

When people fly, they generally park their cars at the airport. Convenient but expensive – and something FlightCar intends to put an end to for good and all. Instead of simply parking your car until your return, the peer-to-peer service rents it out to someone else straight from the airport car park. Imagine someone travelling from Stuttgart to Berlin on business. On arrival in Berlin, our traveller could step out of the airport and straight into a private car rented from FlightCar. At the end of the day, our traveller hands back the car with just a couple of clicks on the smartphone and makes his way to departures for the return flight to Stuttgart. We could make this a reality.

Who will build the cars of the future?

Care makers and ridesharing providers are frenemies: competitors and partners in one. Uber is the world’s most valuable ridesharing startup. The vision of CEO Travis Kalanick is an agile future – a future in which cars will never stand still. But who is going to build these cars? You can’t drive a car made of bits and bytes. ‘Building cars isn’t our job’ says Kalanick, ‘we cooperate with the people who do’. What this cooperation will look like is still in the stars. Daimler identified the trend towards ridesharing at a very early stage and has long-since taken its own route. ‘What you have to do is envisage the options offered by technologies that are naturally always destructive to some extent, but simultaneously bring unbelievable potentials’, explains Dieter Zetsche, and enumerates the potentials of the in-house concepts: ‘car2go will evolve into car2come’. An allusion to the company’s own technological leadership in the areas of Connected Cars and autonomous driving. At the same time, investments in mytaxi and Blacklane have long since established the company as an active player in the ridesharing movement. Only a few weeks ago, the Daimler subsidiary mytaxi and the British ride-hailing service Hailo merged and Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America acquired the US-startup FlightCar – a kind of Airbnb for cars.

Who will build the cars of the future?

Care makers and ridesharing providers are frenemies: competitors and partners in one. Uber is the world’s most valuable ridesharing startup. The vision of CEO Travis Kalanick is an agile future – a future in which cars will never stand still. But who is going to build these cars? You can’t drive a car made of bits and bytes. ‘Building cars isn’t our job’ says Kalanick, ‘we cooperate with the people who do’. What this cooperation will look like is still in the stars. Daimler identified the trend towards ridesharing at a very early stage and has long-since taken its own route. ‘What you have to do is envisage the options offered by technologies that are naturally always destructive to some extent, but simultaneously bring unbelievable potentials’, explains Dieter Zetsche, and enumerates the potentials of the in-house concepts: ‘car2go will evolve into car2come’. An allusion to the company’s own technological leadership in the areas of Connected Cars and autonomous driving. At the same time, investments in mytaxi and Blacklane have long since established the company as an active player in the ridesharing movement. Only a few weeks ago, the Daimler subsidiary mytaxi and the British ride-hailing service Hailo merged and Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America acquired the US-startup FlightCar – a kind of Airbnb for cars.

When people fly, they generally park their cars at the airport. Convenient but expensive – and something FlightCar intends to put an end to for good and all. Instead of simply parking your car until your return, the peer-to-peer service rents it out to someone else straight from the airport car park. Imagine someone travelling from Stuttgart to Berlin on business. On arrival in Berlin, our traveller could step out of the airport and straight into a private car rented from FlightCar. At the end of the day, our traveller hands back the car with just a couple of clicks on the smartphone and makes his way to departures for the return flight to Stuttgart. We could make this a reality.

Ridesharing – a growth market.

The ridesharing market is growing. Uber completed more than a billion journeys between 2009 and 2015. From the beginning of this year to mid-June, this figure may well rise to 2 billion. What is the secret of Uber’s success?  It could well be the way they combine a simple user interface with an even simpler electronic payment system. It could also be the fact that Uber provides access to every imaginable permutation of mobility. When booking a flight, travellers can choose between Economy and Business Class. With Uber, users choose the vehicle they wish to ride in and whether they wish to share it with strangers or travel alone. Depending on their wishes, they can share a car at low cost (UberPOOL, UberX) or drive alone in the lap of luxury in an SUV or a premium saloon (UberSUV, UberLUX). If they need room for 4 to 6 passengers, they simply order an UberXL.

Already a fantastic deal, but now Uber is expanding its portfolio of transportation options for both people and goods: UberMOTO – motorcycle taxis, UberCHOPPER – helicopter flights, UberEATS – food delivery service, UberRUSH – goods courier service, and UberKITTENS – which brings cats or kittens approved for adoption to your door.

Traditionalists versus newcomers.

Numerous service providers compete in the growing ridesharing market: the best known of them all are Uber, Lyft and Gett. These providers are prime targets for automobile concerns and enterprises at home in the technology sector. The convoluted connections, alliances and competing factions revealed by this chart would do justice to a Mafia thriller. Toyota makes a deal with Uber to offer Uber-drivers leasing vehicles. GM pumps 500 million USD into Uber’s competitor Lyft and dreams of robot taxis. Even VW has launched an attack on Uber – with a 300 million dollar shot in the arm for the competing startup Gett. BMW is investing in the California-based carpooling app Scoop and plans to integrate Free Floating technology in MINIS to enable ridesharing with privately owned vehicles.  The big technology concerns Apple and Google are also fighting out a spectacular battle.

Apple’s latest injection of capital to the tune of 1 billion USD into the Chinese startup Didi Chuxing has left Uber in China in a cold sweat. In the meantime, rumours tell of a possible cooperation between Uber and Didi Chuxing in China. Google is a major investor in Uber and RideWith, and has since rolled out Waze, its own ridesharing service. Parallel to this, Facebook is planning to integrate a ridesharing function into its interface. In addition to these investors, states like Saudi Arabia are also in ridesharing to get a tight hold on the mobility of their citizens. Quite recently, the Saudi Royals pumped 3.5 million USD into Uber. It could make a big difference to the mobility of women in the country. Women already make up an 80% share of customers in Saudi Arabia.

Ridesharing is only the beginning.

Ridesharing is only the beginning of a spate of new business models that will be opened up by the digitalisation of automobiles. The car on-demand will be followed by services in the cars on-demand. Audi envisages a range of pay-per-use services that can be booked only when required. All it needs is mobile Internet, a convincing user interface and a smoothly functioning, hassle-free mobile payment system. Once installed, this would allow the provision of premium upgrades for customers and an almost infinite range of services – for instance reservation of parking spaces or the booking of hotel rooms.

With growing demand.

Uber has shown that there is real demand for new digital mobility concepts. Nevertheless, it is not Uber’s fault that increasing numbers of people no longer wish to own their own car. However, along with car2go, Uber was one of the first enterprises to offer the world a modern and forward-looking mobility solution that fulfilled almost everyone’s needs. We must not close our eyes and ears to demands for new mobility concepts – we must now search for, identify and sound out their enormous potentials. If we stay with the airline and Airbus principle we mentioned earlier, the question is not so much whether we wish to be the airline or aircraft manufacturer of the highways, but rather whether we can understand the new needs of our customers and provide appropriate solutions.