Why the flying car is slowing down new mobility

Politicians such as transport minister andreas scheuer and digital minister dorothee bar also like to describe mobile visions of the future. But air cabs such as this four-seater "city airbus" are a real challenge actually soon suitable for everyday use? © picture alliance

Decision-makers in the automotive industry like to set themselves high goals that often go beyond the current reality and look far into the future. However, this strategy not only has advantages, but can also lead to disappointment among customers. A commentary.

Innovative technologies and solutions are often complex. Since there is a lack of comparative figures, those responsible like to use well-known films or novels to make them tangible for people and to find points of reference: blockbusters such as "2001: odyssey in space" or "I, robot" serve as references for artificial intelligence. For the future of mobility, "back to the future" must be used regularly. Let’s stay with the example of mobility. Here, pictures of flying cars trigger expectations for the (near) future among potential customers. The disappointment is all the greater when new vehicle types fall short of the promised possibilities.

This dilemma is currently apparent in the case of electric cars, even though they – in comparison to flying cars – are already on the market. For example, many tesla Model 3 buyers were recently upset about the poor workmanship and service when they received their new car.

Products designed around customer needs

For the part of society that, for various reasons, does not even dare to think about buying an electric car, the consequences are perhaps even more dramatic: they see products and visions for the future that completely fail to meet their needs. This gives rise to the opinion that companies do not develop solutions for everyday life, but serve a pure end in themselves.

Manufacturers are not doing themselves any favors with this communication strategy either. the example of flying cars makes this clear: they are partly technically feasible, but their use is not (yet) practical with today’s technologies. A recent study by the university of michigan and the car manufacturer ford shows that flying electric cars would not be a viable alternative to road-based vehicles, especially for distances of less than 35 kilometers – which is the case for most commuters – due to the high costs and the environmental impact of energy generation.

Nevertheless, many companies strive to conquer the skies with their models, neglecting other areas of interest. For example, the connected car still offers great growth potential; better still, an achievable goal: the fully automated, connected vehicle. The prerequisite for this, however, is effective and continuous data communication between all road users, which will probably only become a reality in five to ten years. For manufacturers, this opens up the opportunity to use this time to efficiently set up their core business and generate sufficient cash flow. Then you can invest in the mobility of the future and help shape this new market.

Connected car grows together with the smartphone

The automotive industry will change dramatically in the foreseeable future. For example, shared, automated vehicle fleets will most likely replace the ownership of one’s own car sooner or later. These new mobility concepts require completely new development and production processes. The number of possible cooperation and integration partners also goes far beyond today’s typical network of a traditional car manufacturer.

In the future, a completely new ecosystem will emerge around services and providers. The connected car itself will then grow inseparably together with the user’s smartphone. All services related to mobility can then be controlled and planned completely individually via app. this means a real revolution in traffic and mobility.

All stakeholders know that something has to change if automakers want to survive in the future. The digital transformation of the industry is therefore indispensable. Yet many are not positioned for the digital age. It’s time for companies to develop agile decision-making processes and a start-up mindset, and offer products and services based on data and customer needs. manufacturers should be fact-based and customer-focused rather than inspired by flying cars. This is the only way to make sense of the mobility of the future.

Wolf ingomar faecks

Wolf ingomar faecks, senior vice president and industry lead automotive/manufacturing/health EMEA/APAC, publicis sapient

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