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Mobility in Cities of the Future – Interview with Parkhere and Veomo

Mobility improves our quality of life. It is the prerequisite for economic growth, trade and creativity, but also our personal sense of well being — which has been demonstrated by the current corona crisis. Mobility provides opportunities, both for individual advancement and for society as a whole. There are many companies that take different approaches to mobility.

That includes two Munich-based startups: Veomo, which provides visualization software to access mobility information, and Parkhere, which has specialized in sustainable and efficient parking solutions with its hardware and software. Veomo founder Dominik Radic and Parkhere CEO Felix Harteneck tell us how something known as multimodality and efficient management of parking lots can provide sustainable mobility. In our interview, we talk about current trends and the future of mobility. 

Munich Startup: Felix, Dominik, you’ve dealt in depth with all things mobility for years. In your opinion, what are the biggest pain points in terms of urban individual transportation?

Parkhere CEO Felix Harteneck
Parkhere CEO Felix Harteneck

Felix Harteneck: Particularly in an urban setting, many people have to contend with traffic, increasing emissions and a serious shortage of available parking due to the lack of space and the growing number of cars. Many cities have introduced radical measures as a result, such as car-free inner cities. By doing so, they are establishing new conditions that often focus on individual transportation. At the same time, citizens’ demands are naturally increasing as well to have as high a level of mobility as possible with the same degree of flexibility. 

What are the benefits of new forms of mobility?

Dominik Radic: To guarantee the desired degree of flexibility and reduce individual transportation over the long term, new forms of mobility need to be allowed, such as car sharing or scooter sharing, which have their own set of rules for the use of parking spaces. Cities are investing in the expansion of station-based bike sharing services or in mobility stations, which means they’re covering more and more ground. After the recent insolvency of several sharing services, there is a growing sense that cities haven’t given sharing services the necessary level of priority.

Munich Startup: An increasing number of people live in cities. Can sharing concepts be used to keep traffic from collapsing?

Felix Harteneck: I think individual transportation is changing and that it not only needs to adapt to the challenge but also to the needs of today’s society. Individual transportation will continue to play a very important role in the future. But it’s more a question of whether each individual has to sit alone in their car or if they have to own a car at all. In that respect, I think companies need to take responsibility. After all, 68 percent of individuals still make their way to work in their cars — and often do so alone.

Munich Startup: Dominik, beyond Munich — what cities do you think are taking pioneering approaches to mobility?

Veomo founder Dominik Radic
Veomo founder Dominik Radic

Dominik Radic: According to the Smart City Index, Hamburg is considered the leader of mobility in Germany. A major driving force behind that is certainly the approaching ITS World Congress 2021 in Hamburg. In addition to developing a real-time public transportation platform and pooling alternative mobility services at mobility stations, there are also plans for a test track for autonomous vehicles in the city. In addition to Hamburg, Vienna is also very progressive. In recent years, Vienna has resolutely reduced the number of parking spots for cars, nearly doubled parking lot fees and decreased the price for public transportation (and also launched the 365 euro annual ticket.) 

Companies can advance the mobility revolution

Munich Startup: How can companies and cities participate in the mobility revolution? 

Felix Harteneck: Companies have a significant influence and can advance the mobility revolution. That’s for sure. To do that, they need to provide their employees with as many forms of mobility as possible. Why not share the commute to work with a colleague? 

And not just that. Changes in the taxation of company cars means many company fleets will be powered by electricity over the middle term, which is why an increasing number of companies are installing charging infrastructure in their parking lots. Companies can make these charging stations and parking areas available to local residents in the evening and on weekends. That would reduce parking pressure. 

Dominik Radic: I also think cities bear a major responsibility in the mobility revolution, but they are also often left on their own. Traffic infrastructure is drastically underfinanced. Expanding bicycle infrastructure would support both bike traffic and the use of micromobility. Moreover, the use of public transportation has already reached its limits. Making tickets even less expensive would only exacerbate the overload issue. For new forms of mobility and the transition to alternatives to even stand a chance, major investments are needed that most cities can’t cover on their own. When we look at cities where the mobility revolution is already in an advanced stage, we can see that it’s a process of several years. We haven’t started that process yet in Germany.

Mobility will be shared, semi-autonomous and electric

Munich Startup: What will our mobility look like in 2030? 

Felix Harteneck: Shared, semi-autonomous and electric. That’s how I envision mobility in the future. ‘Mobility on demand’ will be much stronger and private vehicle ownership will be considerably lower. Instead of travelling with just one mode of transportation, the amount of intermodal travel will increase greatly. For example, you’ll park your car in a park & ride parking lot and take a shuttle from there to work, or an e-scooter. In comparison to private cars, shared vehicles will be used much more efficiently — both in terms of the number of passengers and in daily use. I also see a great deal of growth in the electromobility market. The current market is already very dynamic and there are many players with interesting solutions and concepts. A large portion of newly registered vehicles will be electric. And even if not autonomous — we will at least be semi-automated on the road in 2030.

Munich Startup: That means the future will be about adapted mobility offers. Does that mean cars will lose their value as status symbols?

Felix Harteneck: It’s like the saying goes here: A car is a German’s favorite child. And that’s still very true today. But a trend that you do see in the new generation is that they would rather share than own. In the future, it will no longer be a matter of who drives the biggest and best looking car, but will be much more about finding the right form of mobility for your current needs to quickly, conveniently and, most particularly, sustainably get from A to B. 

Digital platforms aim to simplify the transition to alternative mobility

Munich Startup: Dominik, when looking ahead, which fields of activity do you think will grow in importance when it comes to the future of our urban mobility?

Dominik Radic: In light of the current challenges presented by traffic, emissions and a lack of space, we see many important fields of activity. The major challenge is primarily the development of a complete system that takes future technologies into account. To avoid the development of individual solutions and to conserve resources, framework conditions and cooperation are extremely important. At the same time, we need to simplify the transition to alternatives. We’re doing that by creating digital platforms and providing interfaces. That makes it possible for multimodal mobility platforms to emerge, which in turn create the basis for a simple and satisfying user experience.

Munich Startup: How can mobility be made climate friendly and sustainable?

Felix Harteneck: It’s important for politicians, industry and service providers to develop solutions together. The goal should be to offer modern and fair options that make users more open to climate friendly and networked mobility. Urban mobility concepts have to be made more sustainable and inclusive. In concrete terms, that means all players need to work on solutions together to avoid, relocate and improve traffic. 

Harteneck: “Urban mobility concepts need to be made more sustainable and inclusive”

Munich Startup: The transformation of mobility offers also transforms the significance of parking space. How can existing parking space be used optimally? 

Felix Harteneck: Parking space is an important component of existing and new buildings. For existing properties, it’s important to make optimal use of the available parking space. Over the medium term, the available parking space can be sublet to third parties, for example, it could be made available to local residents on weekends or after working hours. Parking space will continue to play an important role in new buildings as well.

In this case, however, its optimal use can reduce the number of parking spots to be built, which in turn saves money and space. At the same time, it’s important for the parking spots to be integrated into a comprehensive mobility concept from the beginning and that they’re not forgotten in the mobility concept.

We’re already aware of the importance of parking spaces today. They could serve as a key for integrating electromobility and intensifying carpooling. Their importance will continue to grow in the future for the integration of further forms of mobility. 

Optimal use of (parking) space

Munich Startup: How might digital trends have an impact on construction, for example, on the building of parking space? 

Dominik Radic: The range of alternative mobility services and digital services is radically changing our mobility behavior. Now that living space has become a limited commodity in our big cities, we as a society should think about how we can use parking space more efficiently and offer alternatives to individual transportation. With smart parking systems, we can use parking spots more efficiently and create space for things such as sharing services. In new construction projects in particular, we can reduce the number of parking spots required by linking them to digital systems and outfitting the building to suit the future. 

Munich Startup: That means many changes await us. What kind of sustainable mobility concept would you like to see for cities?

Felix Harteneck: For me, a desirable mobility concept makes all forms of mobility accessible to everyone. We are going to work with our partners to provide a platform for that in the future that unites all mobility services. That means we’re also in favor of car-free zones and inner cities. It is certainly conceivable for car drivers in the future to park and charge their cars in company parking lots outside the city and to then take alternative forms of mobility, such as e-scooters or e-bikes, to reach the inner city. 

Munich Startup: Many thanks for the insights and for the interview.