Sandra Rohrbach


"Bike, train, and car!"

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Are convertibles, sedans, and SUVs slowly becoming irrelevant? No. But Germany's favorite – the car – is going to have to demonstrate greater team spirit in the future.

Transforming the automobile

Cars will continue to play a key role. Today, 70 percent of Germans still take the car every day or at least several times a week, according to a 2016 study by the German Federal Environment Ministry and the German Environment Agency. There is no doubt, however, that the automobile is changing. Take electric cars, for example. According to the German Federal Motor Transport Authority the number of registered electric cars in Germany increased more than sevenfold between 2012 and 2017. 

From connected cars to self-driving cars 

The Internet also continues to make inroads. Although there are only a few cars at the moment to feature permanently installed SIM cards, connected retrofit solutions are currently more popular than ever. All it takes is an adapter the size of a matchbox to enable driver and passengers to benefit from digital services on the road According to the German statistics portal Statista, smart navigation and driving assist solutions are particularly popular in Germany. The latter continues to improve and partially automated driving has become standard with the help of features like traffic reporters and parking assistants. Analyst firm Frost & Sullivan expects cars to be self-driving within just five years. 

Nodes on the Internet of Things

For all this to happen, however, not only do cars need to communicate with drivers and repair shops, but also with everyone else on the road: other cars, parking lots, traffic signals, suburban trains, and bicycles. That means cars are going to become nodes on the Internet of Things (IoT). One such scenario has already become reality: Thanks to connected parking lots, cars can already find available parking spaces themselves. The consultants at Deloitte estimate that with mobility strategies like these, car manufacturers will be able to increase their sales by more than 50% compared to 2016.

Key driving force: IT and telecommunications

Mobility scenarios like smart parking, self-driving cars and car sharing all require a vast amount of data to be transferred, stored and analyzed. High-performance network technologies like LTE, the future 5G standard, and energy-efficient, affordable narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) modules. Providers rely on the cloud and special analysis methods to process these large amounts of data. As a Deloitte consultant wrote in a recent article, this means "ICT companies will most likely play a role in the new transportation ecosystem that is just as important as that of any car manufacturer, tech giant, or local stakeholder." 

Germany needs to catch up 

"A lot has happened in Germany over the past few years when it comes to car sharing, electric mobility, digital infrastructure, and mobility apps," comments Felix Hasse, partner at PwC corporate consulting. "But that doesn't mean that we don't have a lot of catching up to do if you look at what's been happening in other countries." PwC took a look at the status quo of digital and electric mobility in Germany's 25 largest cities in a recent study. Hamburg, Stuttgart, and Berlin are leading the ranks.

Getting there your way

"A number of areas in connected mobility have already finalized the pilot phase," says Oliver Bahns, head of Connected Mobility at Deutsche Telekom. "Now it's time to roll up our sleeves and get to work." It's the only way to achieve our vision of individual mobility. Once it has become a reality, our person at the movies will grab a rental bike around the corner, get to the station in plenty of time to catch their train, and then finish their journey in their car, using their smartphone to pay for parking to the minute. And in response to the question of how they will get home, they will glance at their smartphone and say "Bike, train, and car!"