There will be rolling road yachts

Video-Interview with Alexander Mankowsky, futurist at Daimler AG.


Will the car remain the people's "favorite child"?

Alexander Mankowsky: I'm not sure if it's really the people's favorite child. Let's put it this way: cars are a means of transportation, of mobility, and you spend time in them. That will only intensify in autonomous vehicles. You'll tend to spend more time in them. In other words, I don't think cars will be completely replaced by something different that hasn't been invented yet. To that extent, yes, in a way, although I think "favorite child" is a bit much.

What will the car of the future look like? Will it be our personal spa, gym, or rolling office? What are the possibilities and what do you think is realistic?

Alexander Mankowsky: That will be wildly different. Today's vehicles must all have a certain sameness, because everyone has to be looking forward. I need a window up front. If that no longer applies, then we'll slowly start seeing vehicles that look much different than what we expect a car to look like. There will be a wide variety. There will be different exteriors – the chassis – and interiors, of course: if I have two small children, I'll need something completely different than if I like to play the violin, and I'll get something different. And of course, think of this: if you think U.S., you'll think "road yachts".

Will the cities bloom and evolve if we don't need as many cars as now, because we will have car-sharing, and will parking lots turn into playgrounds?

Alexander Mankowsky: That's a major issue: the space that will be freed up. Sure, parking lots could be eliminated. That would be great. Right now, our cities are really full. We also have the option of "remote parking", that is, the car parks itself farther away and doesn't have to take the best parking spaces. In "regular" parking garages, we prefer not to drive all the way to the top, just because it makes us a little dizzy. Self-driving cars never get dizzy and can better utilize the capacity of an existing parking garage. I think fantasy will know nearly no bounds. 

For our part, we are working on a shared space concept – you might have heard of it – it was conceived by Hans Monderman. That means no road signs, which means the space can be better shared flexibly among the people who live there and the vehicles. That's the ultimate goal: can you create a shared space in which you share the space with vehicles, without accidents, but are completely flexible in how you use it?

Does that mean you're looking forward to a future that is quieter and provides more space?

Alexander Mankowsky: Yes, of course. It will definitely be better for the cities. There have been shared space concepts by Hans Monderman – google it if you like – that only failed because they expected too much of people. The basic concept was that people who are driving will never want to run over or injure anyone they see. That should be obvious. And it's true, too. But to facilitate it, they started leveling all the plazas, to make sure that everyone was really seen. But then they weren't nice any more, and no one wanted to be there. That wasn't so good. When we have autonomous cars, we can take a much different approach, and we've already had some great experiments that have been very promising.

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