“We are going to revolutionize parking”

Within the framework of the “Mobility of Tomorrow” initiative, Bosch CEO Dr. Volkmar Denner and automobile expert Professor Stefan Bratzel discussed new business models and the future of the powertrain.

Mobility is changing rapidly, and the German automotive industry is determined to be at the forefront of this change. This was made very clear at the second event in the series of discussions of the “Mobility of Tomorrow” initiative. Dr. Volkmar Denner, Chairman of the Board of Management at Robert Bosch GmbH, and Prof. Stefan Bratzel, Director of the Center of Automotive Management (CAM), discussed which strategy German manufacturers and suppliers are following to master the challenges of the future.

The magnitude of these challenges was already evident in the wording that was used: “disruption”, “revolution” and “tipping point”. It was all the more interesting to hear about which path Bosch is taking toward the mobility of tomorrow. The company has “huge innovation potential” and is “one of the great hopes” for alternative drive systems, automation, and digitalization, VDA President Matthias Wissmann said at the opening of the event.

In his keynote speech, Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner gave insights on how the company wants to shape transportation in the future. “Anyone on the road today spends far too much time stuck in traffic jams, waiting for public transportation, or looking for a parking space,” Denner said. “We are addressing these problems at Bosch.” For example, solutions for intermodal transport are being developed to make travel more convenient, safe, and stress-free. Bosch will revolutionize parking as well.

Among other things, the company is working on community-based parking, where vehicles gather information about free parking spaces and share this with other users through the cloud. This service should go on the market in 2017. After all, Bosch is working to transform the car from merely a means of transportation to a personal assistant. This assistant will be expected to communicate with intelligent homes, for example. Among other things, a driver will be able to set a comfortable temperature in their house before arriving.

“The future will be more and more about software and services,” said automobile expert Stefan Bratzel in the second keynote speech of the evening. Disruption is affecting the current business model of the automotive industry. German manufacturers and suppliers do have a high level of innovation in the field of networked vehicles. However, software-oriented companies such as Tesla or Google are catching up. “The central question is how German automotive companies will manage the interface to the customer with their own services.” This will need major reorganization, the car expert advised.

In addition to digitalization, the future of the drive unit was the second dominant topic of the evening. Stefan Bratzel considered the debate about increased exhaust emissions to be an impulse which could become the tipping point for electric mobility. “We are experiencing self-enhancing effects. For a long time, I assumed that we would not experience any great leaps in this area before 2020; but at the Paris Motor Show we saw that a lot is happening in electric mobility.” Volkmar Denner pointed out that what matters most is making battery cells more efficient and improving range and prices. “This is a problem we have to solve,” he said. This is why Bosch puts 400 million euros per year into research and development related to electric mobility. Another approach is to concentrate on e-fuels, synthetic fuels based on renewable energy. The goal is clear: the mobility of tomorrow must be carbon-neutral.

The topics were then discussed in depth with the audience and moderator Wulf Schmiese, the Berlin correspondent for the ZDF television channel. Stefan Bratzel from the Center of Automotive Management suggested that the German automotive industry might have to refocus its research and development. “Simultaneous R&D efforts must not waste time”, he said. Volkmar Denner of Bosch countered that a transformation toward electric mobility cannot be achieved overnight. Different machinery, new manufacturing skills, and new know-how is necessary. “Such a transformation process takes time, even if it is carried out with a high level of commitment,” he said.

Stefan Bratzel and Volkmar Denner agreed that promoting Germany as a location for innovation must be a shared responsibility. Political support is needed here as well. “When it comes to new technologies such as autonomous driving, positive discussions will have to ease the fears of the general public”, Bratzel said. Volkmar Denner added that things need to change in higher education and in the promotion of young talent: “We need chairs for business model innovation at universities. In the future, high tech will not merely consist of engineers drilling holes with great precision. What’s more important is developing clever business models.”

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