Munich: It’s not the cars, it’s the thinking

793 words about the automobile world’s largest innovation exhibition held this week in Munich, four insights on changes we should be talking about, and not a word about cars.

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I was in Munich this week, at the largest IAA auto show for smart transport, drawing huge attendance from around the world and focused on challenging and leading all aspects of the industry, from shared rides to electrical solutions, urban options, micro solutions and more. 

I visited the show’s open areas, its exhibitions on blending with the urban vista, and saw various solutions aimed at the future. And I came away with four main insights that have absolutely nothing to do with cars.

It’s about inverse thinking

The Mini Vision Urbanaut by BMWOne of the really interesting and important aspects is looking at things objectively. BMW’s come up with a great idea which they’ve titled urbanaut. It’s a car that looks like a cross between a spaceship, an old style commercial Volkswagen, and an Ikea living room with a pot plant. The really nice thing is the thinking behind it. This isn’t another attempt at coming up with a car of the future, but thinking that’s disconnected from cars and carries the simple, down to earth title of “Vision of a space instead of a vehicle.” The question here isn’t about trying yet again to describe a car in terms of steering wheels and safety belts, and then relate to the internal space, but the opposite: first, the space, conceptually and experientially, one that looks like it belongs to the future, and afterwards, how the actual vehicle should operate.

It’s about city thinking

One of the things constantly on my mind is: the city. How will our future cities look? How will autonomous and electric vehicles affect city businesses? Pedestrian spaces: what will they look like? And what should businesses be doing differently in their ongoing activities to maintain their ability to remain innovative? These could sound like unlinked topics, but they are tremendously impactful. Giving consideration to urban change is fascinating and should be a top priority for every normal city in Israel, because it has vital impact on urban planning and every city’s ability to keep progressing and to implement solutions that promote connectivity, or fall behind. I came back with a clear understanding about how cities need to work for the sake of their businesses, and especially what’s needed for business and commercial hubs.

It’s about interconnectivity thinking

Plenty of the things happen here are not linked: they look like parallel tracks of progress. Electric bikes, small scale cars, hovercraft, autonomous vehicles and more. But a really good insight has to do with the interconnections among things that are seemingly not connected, and which drives new thinking. What happens when school buses switch to autonomous transportation? What about autonomous ambulances? How does the urban street and its shops look relative to ride sharing? The ability to take two topics which are advancing simultaneously, and examine how they interface, is thrilling, and it’s happening so, so soon. The really interesting bit comes to light when we try understanding the autonomous supply chain’s ability to influence agriculture and our food distribution.

And it’s about user experience thinking

I have to say that the most meaningful insight, which keeps resurfacing and links to all the others, starts with understanding users and their experience. The screens of all the electrical vehicles I looked were very similar to the current Tesla. We’re getting to the point where it won’t be a question of technology anymore, but one of interfaces: how convenient is it? How intuitive? Basically it’s a computer, which means that the main focus is on software rather than hardware. Keeping that shift of focus in mind, we need to start thinking differently about our users: what really provides the user with added value? The car itself will travel, it’ll be quieter, it’ll be electrical, autonomous: so what will create a completely different experience?

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I came away with a ton of thoughts about our future. If we’re to survive, we’ve got to be daring enough to think differently, to familiarize with what’s around us, to fail fast and cheap. And then pick ourselves up and build on that experience. It’s not a question of the car. It’s a question of the city, of mountains of data, of massive change, of accelerating technologies, and of businesses that need to stay relevant. It’s a huge question about accessibility, prioritization, social disparities, and brands that take the courageous leap compared to those who get left behind.

In no time those things will be parking and hovering near your home. But, to me, that’s not the big story, at least not here. I haven’t said a word about the models of cars I saw there, because they’re not the focus. The focus is on how we, the people, can change; how we, our organizations and businesses can stay relevant in this almost-here future.

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