SXSW 2017: Investing and Developing in Carsharing and Autonomous Driving

March 20, 2017

This month, we participated in South by Southwest® (SXSW®) in Austin, TX. The annual event brings together thought leaders across technology, entertainment, and more for amazing showcases and conversations, as well as sessions and demos to find solutions to world problems. Stay tuned to MBRDNA.com for more on our sessions and our take on one of the key topics from SXSW 2017: the intelligent future.


The “sharing economy” has become the “sharing society.” People are now conditioned to expect opportunities in every industry to share resources and possessions, often at a much lower cost than traditional industries such as hospitality – and, of course, transportation.

Similarly, automation is becoming de facto across production and services alike. Smart homes turn your lights on and off for you; recurring subscriptions of monthly grocery shopping are delivered to your door. Cars are next on the list to become entirely “automated” – i.e. self-driving or autonomous.

With its new corporate strategy entitled CASE – which stands for “Connected,” “Autonomous,” “Shared & Services,” and “Electric” – Mercedes-Benz Cars is marking out the cornerstones for its future success and the reshaping of mobility. The real revolution in future mobility lies in intelligently linking the four major trends.

At SXSW, MBRDNA CEO Arwed Niestroj and car2go North America CEO Paul DeLong spoke with WIRED’s Aarian Marshall about how ultimately, carsharing and ridesharing services as well as autonomous vehicles will solve some of the same issues presented by the mobility ecosystem like congestion, lacking flexibility in transport or pollution.

Here are some key takeaways from the session:

  • New generational norms and increased urbanization are made uniquely sustainable by these emerging solutions. Newer generations have a “new normal” when it comes to car use. Millennials seem to purchase cars at a lower rate than previous generations, but demand services that provide the same desired flexibility of movement that car ownership would otherwise provide. Simultaneously, a majority of the world’s population is moving back into the urban cores. Everything is becoming even more crowded and congested, requiring solutions to “declutter” wherever possible. Carsharing and ridesharing solve issues such as traffic and noise pollution – not to mention environmental pollution. So, do autonomous cars; for example, a shared autonomous vehicle can be used in the urban core when you need it and then leave the urban core when it’s not in use – to find a parking spot, for instance. More joint use cases will emerge as these services and self-driving car technologies evolve. These are, in fact, what Daimler is looking to uncover.
  • Collaboration is key to innovation. As a mobility provider traditionally operating in the manufacture and sale of cars, Daimler’s decision to partner with carsharing companies like Uber might seem counterintuitive. But Daimler already has many answers (and services) in place for the problems existing within the mobility space, from car2go to moovel to Hailo to smart ready to drop. In looking at the larger picture, the company would rather disrupt itself than be disrupted by someone else. Mobility solutions are not “one size fits all,” so the company strives to see as many different options as possible and work with partners across the board on these solutions. One solution, already in progress, is how to allow users to summon a vehicle to where they need it. Today, there are cars parked in cities that are taking up valuable space, whereas autonomous vehicles would allow for those roads to otherwise be clear and for cars to only be available when called upon.
  • Autonomy is the future solution. It’s important to have a broader discussion on when we, as a society, can accept the driving of vehicles without human input. Autonomy is inevitable in so many realms that it’s clear: The automotive industry is next. And Daimler’s work in autonomous driving is key to remaining a leading force in the mobility industry. Additionally, autonomous driving tackles some significant social issues. For example, a car that can drive itself gives people back the time or mobility they wouldn’t otherwise have; you can now use your time in the car to do other things (i.e. work, reading the paper, sleeping, knitting, talking with your friends). Solving this type of social discrepancy is one of Daimler’s – and MBRDNA’s – key goals in supporting the mobility ecosystem.

It will not only take one of these solutions to make this happen. But it will require all of these emerging solutions – and partners – operating in concert to make the potential shared and autonomous future a reality.

Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post with an in-depth interview with Arwed about MBRDNA’s work and mission. And share your thoughts on the carsharing ecosystem and autonomous driving with us on social media – join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.