BDS’ traffic policy evening: “Changing mobility – opportunities and challenges for the German automotive industry”
“Three trends will have a key role in defining the mobility of tomorrow: urbanization, digitization and electrification. The number of cities with over a million inhabitants is growing, and public space is becoming more scarce. That will demand new traffic and vehicle concepts that deliver efficiency and sustainability,” said Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). He was speaking at the traffic-policy evening of the “Bund der Selbstständigen” (BDS, an association of self-employed entrepreneurs) held in Stuttgart today. “The German automotive companies invest more than 30 billion euros per year in research and development, which demonstrates a drive for innovation that is unique worldwide. We are taking automated and connected driving forward and developing ever more efficient engines and alternative powertrains. At the same time we create new business models and forms of mobility.”
The VDA president sees digitization as a key solution to the growing challenges of urban mobility. In the future, he explained, automated driving functions would provide even greater levels of comfort and improve road safety. They would also generate savings in fuel consumption and emissions. “Connectivity offers considerable efficiency gains,” Wissmann stressed. “Just communication between vehicles and traffic lights can improve the traffic flow so that emissions fall by one third. Or take searching for a parking spot: according to a study by PROGNOS, drivers in Germany spend around 560 million hours every year looking for somewhere to park. Better use of available data on the utilization of parking spaces, coupled with additional sources of data, could reduce this figure by up to 30 percent.”
Electric mobility will be equally important for the mobility of the future. Wissmann stated, “Forecasts assume that in about ten years from now, more than 15 percent of all new vehicles around the world will be electrified. The car of the future will be automated, connected and electric. With this combination it will help relieve the pressure on public space. I am therefore appealing for swift realization of the necessary regulatory conditions for connected and automated mobility, and welcome the resumption of discussions on possible incentives to encourage electric mobility.”
The VDA president emphasized that even with the efforts to promote alternative powertrains, gasoline and diesel-powered propulsion would remain indispensable as transition technologies for some years to come. Diesel technology was in no way discredited by the software manipulation. “On the contrary: modern Euro 6 diesels score not only in terms of consumption and thus in CO2 emissions,” Wissmann said, adding, “With the most advanced exhaust treatment, i.e. Euro 6, they can meet even the strictest pollution limits.”
Wissmann also went into detail about the refugee crisis: “Large corporations and SMEs alike – our industry is moved by this topic. Many companies have started their own refugee initiatives, for example by offering internships or language courses and other activities. There are many fine examples and our firms are continuing their efforts in this field.” But at the same time it was clear that there were problems with learning the language, along with cultural obstacles.
In view of the 2015 budget surplus of 12.1 billion euros, the VDA president called for more investment. “Most of this money will be used for integrating and accommodating refugees. But other important tasks must not be forgotten, such as investing more again in the infrastructure. We cannot have an either-or situation when it comes to investment. Policymakers need to reconcile both aspects. Only if the German economy continues to boom will the additional revenues flow that we will need to integrate the refugees for many years to come.”
The refugee crisis was not a German challenge, but a European one, according to Wissmann. “For this reason one of the most important tasks for politicians is to preserve European cohesion. This year we must do everything we can to ensure that the British decide to stay in Europe. And we have to persuade our neighbors in Central Europe, the new Government in Poland, to stop rocking fundamental European values. Europe must consist of more than just conferences and grand words. Europe needs states that work hand in hand. In 2016 let us in Germany work hand in hand with politics on these important common goals,” Wissmann said.