The BMW Group rad°hub took place on June 16-17, 2016 in London. An eclectic mix of 95 innovators took part in the event – both from within the BMW Group and beyond – to discuss Digital Cultures and four satellite trend topics, from human augmentivity and autonomous multi-modal mobility, to clean transportation and new consumption models.
Taking over London’s Roundhouse, the overall aim of the day was to uncover the routes to reinventing mobility and meeting the complex and multidimensional needs of the future. It began with an introduction from Peter Schwarzenbauer, member of the board of management at BMW Group. “The future of mobility couldn’t be more exciting!” he enthused. “Digitalisation, in particular, has more and more impact on virtually all areas of our daily lives. And it will revolutionise the auto sector.”
The attending “rad°influencers” then explored the BMW Group’s VISION Vehicles, with concept cars from BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce. These future-facing speculations seek to define tomorrow’s driving tech, with features such as self-driving, artificial intelligence, reactive design, car-to-driver communication and much more.
Later in the day, WIRED’s deputy editor Greg Williams chaired a question-and-answer forum with Schwarzenbauer, handing the floor to the assembled rad°influencers. Topics included “Uberisation” of services to what the BMW group anticipates the impact of autonomous vehicles will be, and shared ownership models to artificial intelligence, as well as the rapid increase of city sizes and individual finance. When quizzed about the future of safety, Schwarzenbauer commented: “We have to see that around 90 per cent of the accidents that occur today are from human errors. If you eliminate the human error, streets will become much more safe than at present.”
Attendees were then split into eight groups to discuss future scenarios, such as human augmentivity, digitisation, and the potential mobility needs and products of tomorrow. Similarly, access between rural cities and urban environments was addressed, in the hope that tomorrow’s populations would have “more time to do the things that we love.”
Focused on the future
After the rad°hub, WIRED’s product editor Jeremy White met BMW Group’s Peter Schwarzenbauer to discuss topics such as vehicle personalisation, shared ownership and driverless modes of transport.
“With the MINI VISION NEXT 100 we tried to foresee how this will happen,” explained Schwarzenbauer. “Over time, the car learns your moods, what settings you like, the colours you like and when you like them – and then it adapts immediately as soon as you approach the car.”
While the BMW Group has attempted to predict the sector’s future, shared ownership models have emerged as a key topic.
“It doesn’t matter which MINI you enter, or where – it will be always be your MINI,” said Schwarzenbauer. “This is totally possible.”
Although the vehicle will be shared, factors including facial recognition and behavioural analysis can be utilised by in-car assistants – such as those in the Rolls-Royce and BMW VISION NEXT 100 vehicles. But, as the BMW Group dips its toe further into emerging technologies – including driver recognition and personal AI – will it emerge as a tech company that manufactures cars, or a car company that manufactures tech?
“We need to become a tech company,” said Schwarzenbauer. “There’s no alternative. So, this is our challenge. The other challenge, though, is for tech companies to learn to build cars”.
The next 25 years will be fascinating, with huge changes expected in connectivity, propulsion and artificial intelligence. The BMW VISION NEXT 100 is just the beginning.
Jutta Juliane Meier
Founder & CEO, überzeugend-einfach
Since creating the marketing innovation consultancy company in 2009, Munich-based Meier has been explaining the communicative potential of new technologies to executives and civil servants. She now spends at least six to eight weeks in Silicon Valley every year and has pivoted from pure marketing to areas such as the building industry, customer experience, education and mobility.
“Innovations of today and tomorrow are able to disrupt all kind of industries,” she says. “So, from my point of view, we should all start thinking interdisciplinary and from any perspective available. That is why I loved to be part of the rad°hub.
I worked in an ‘inter-modal mobility’ hub, together in a team with Ron Garan, a former astronaut who completely opened up my mind. Since then, my vision on future mobility has changed.”
The extent of this change of vision can sound rather drastic. She hopes we will all have access to any kind of mobility – from earthbound transport to extra-planetary experiences. Meier stresses that mobility is already undergoing significant disruption, especially at the hands of the sharing economy and Uber-like companies.
“I use DriveNow, Uber, Airbnb and several other great services, but there’s still a lot of opportunity in adding value to under-served communities,” she says.
“But I’m also a proud car owner. I love driving around in my convertible and I love using all kinds of integrated tech and driving assistance tools. I’d also like to drive autonomously some day; to retain the option to still drive myself would make the most sense to me.”
Member of the Board of Management, BMW
The future of mobility will arrive in four ways, says BMW Group board member Peter Schwarzenbauer. All that you need to do is remember “ACES” – or autonomous, connected, electrical and shared.
At the rad°hub, Schwarzenbauer argued we need to bring a new perspective to how we view mobility and transport, predicting that in the next decade, the industry will undergo greater transformations than in the last century. “We’re standing before the biggest transformation the automotive industry has ever seen,” he said. “Individual mobility will still play a major role. But how does this mobility look? Who will provide this mobility?”
To help, Schwarzenbauer promised to digest ideas suggested by the rad°influencers, taking advantage of their insight to shape the strategy of the BMW Group. At the rad°hub, WIRED’s deputy editor Greg Williams chaired a Q&A with the influencers, fielding questions on subjects as diverse as autonomous vehicles, software integration and new ownership models.
The future, he concluded, is connected.
Founder & CEO, Drop
Max Möhring is a self-styled biohacker and serial entrepreneur whose interests span messaging apps, music, payment systems and, crucially, the future of transport. Which explains why he was such an enthusiastic participant at the rad°hub on June 16-17, 2016.
“With the event, the BMW Group has started to form a community of open innovation and to cultivate a digital mindset for a company formerly exclusively focused on engineering,” Möhring says. “Working in interdisciplinary groups on topics like the future of green public transportation, or the next generation of cities, shows that the BMW Group is preparing itself to break out of their purely physical garage.”
Möhring values bringing people together to discuss relevant topics. The 29-year-old recently founded Drop – a messaging app that allows the creation of “guarded groups”. These forums can only be joined by people who have certain personality characteristics, gauged via a quiz, a screenshot, a text upload, location or gender, for example.
In this way, Drop aims to sort the wheat of competent arguments from the chaff of online trolling. The same concept informs Möhring’s other venture, Year of the X. This annual festival requests attendees challenge their prejudices and inhibitions and join a wider community of change-makers to discuss the future.
“New technology can lead us in two directions: empowering us or limiting ourselves,” says Möhring. “To ensure its real pluralism in enriching our life, it is key that we form new habits that make sure behaviour guides us towards this.”
Cybersecurity research and contributor, EU.VR
Just a few years ago, you might have wondered what a cybersecurity expert and internet of things consultant like Filip Maertens has to do with personal mobility. Then came the first few reports of connected cars being hacked, even as their owners were driving them in public.
As our vehicles join the increasing number and variety of things being hooked up to a vulnerable internet connection, experts such as Maertens are increasingly in demand – as is the ability to spot the opportunities in smart objects.
In 2011, he founded Sentiance, which uses the data collected by sensor-rich smart devices to build context-aware customer profiles – useful for tailored car insurance products, ride-share administration, or citywide mobility management. The BMW Group envisages that in the future, our vehicles will know their drivers intimately – understanding their preferences, driving styles and even strengths and weaknesses at the wheel. Furthermore, tomorrow’s cars won’t just understand us, they’ll support us, going beyond providing navigational help to offer driving tutelage.
Renée Richardson Gosline
Senior Lecturer and Research Scientist, MIT Sloan School of Management
Exploring how technology influences decisions and how humans offload tasks to machines, Gosline believes “This is changing the way we make choices and what we perceive as rational or irrational,” and asks if this leads us to make better decisions.
“If we understand that, we can then program for people to take better advantage of machines – when suitable,” she says. That’s smart and safe.
Sharing can be tough, but at least when it comes to transportation, Moritz Meenen, believes it doesn’t have to be.
“Our mission is using data intelligence to solve the problem that all bike sharing systems have in common,” he says. “It’s often the case that when users come to station they can’t find a bike, or they have one and can’t find a docking spot.”
ElectricFeel uses predictive algorithms to anticipate demand and highlight
where bottlenecks will form.
“Currently, the system operator can look at the status of the system, but they can only see what it’s like right now,” Meenen says. “They can’t see what people are going to be doing in the next few hours. That causes supply and demand problems.”
Seven public and private bike share systems use ElectricFeel’s system, as well as Barcelona’s Cooltra electric scooter rental service. But Meenen is looking to expand beyond two wheels and exploring shared ownership models.
At rad°hub Meenen explained how shared ownership systems could be a challenge for car manufacturers, but the delegation saw that the BMW Group is already preparing for a radical redefinition of automotive use.
“People think of BMW as just a car manufacturer, but with Uber and self-driving vehicles, the market is being shaken up and turned upside down,” says Meenan. “The fact that the group had workshops around things such as 3D printing, and brought together people from all different areas – from education to culture – showed me that they’re looking at the future in a holistic sense.”
Founder, Big White Wall
Hyatt has founded and helped to found over 30 companies, many of which bridge digital technology and social impact. Her venture Big White Wall is an online platform that offers mental health support and is used by the Ministry of Defence and the NHS.
In the future, she reckons our vehicles could recognise our mental state and current moods, using facial and behavioural analysis. This would allow tomorrow’s cars to adapt their settings to better suit our physical and mental states.