SXSW 2017: #ShareTheRoad

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.

“Ridesharing” once meant picking up a roadside stranger with a sign asking for a lift to the nearest town, or getting yourself to casual carpool every morning to take advantage of the faster lane on your commute and save gas.

Today, ridesharing is an entire monetized industry. And it encompasses not only sharing of time and driving skills, but also sharing of cars with complete strangers.

MBRDNA’s Head of Business Innovation Rasheq Zarif joined IDEO’s Danny Stillion at SXSW to talk about the phenomenon of our increasingly democratized mobility ecosystem and how we can “share the road” to answer the question,

“How do we move together in the mobility ecosystem?”

For Zarif, approaching this question means thinking about the car not as an isolated mode of transportation for individuals, but in the larger ecosystem of our daily lives. He related the idea that home and work are two of the main “places” in which we think of our lives occurring. Yet, the car serves the same purpose. “When you think about a place, you don’t think about a car as a place. But it is, especially with autonomous driving coming down the line,” he said. Stillion agreed, stressing the importance of designing and providing services for the car based on this significant role it plays in our lives.

Zarif and Stillion considered the five main aspects of our interactions with cars and the impact it has: Choice, Accessibility, Ownership, Social Impact and Collaboration.

Here are their key insights on each segment and what they mean for the future of mobility:

Choice comes into play in the proliferation of business models that have impacted the shared mobility market. Operator carsharing, on-demand ride hailing, peer-to-peer carsharing and peer-to-peer ridesharing – there is an increasing number of alternatives to owning a vehicle. And customers can take advantage of any number of these options to exercise even further choice when it comes to productivity, privacy, and relaxation (which each mode of transportation heightens or restricts).

Accessibility is a major benefit of the shared mobility market. From seniors, to adults who can’t drive, to children, it has brought more mobility options to more people in need (and particularly in lower-income segments of the population). While ridesharing and carsharing options certainly enable much of this accessibility, public transport remains – and should remain – a significant tool to enable this equality of access. As Zarif said, “We need to enhance and complement public transportation, but not necessarily replace it.”


Ownership of a car, however, is still very important to everyone worldwide; Zarif and Stillion touched upon how one’s car is often a status symbol representing their personality or lifestyle. As the car is an extension of oneself, Zarif cited data that most people are still not keen on sharing their cars, or even their rides. But interestingly, it is the younger generations that are more open to sharing models rather than outright ownership. And even among those who don’t feel a desire to share their own cars, it is a well-liked idea that carsharing can make cars more affordable and car use more flexible (such as the ability to access other kinds of vehicles). However, barriers like the complexities of insurance liability still remains. But to Zarif’s point, this is the value in working across all areas of the mobility ecosystem. He referred to Daimler’s strategy pillars – Connected, Autonomous, Shared, and Electrification – as a concept that can be applied not just to car ownership but to the entire mobility ecosystem. Daimler, by working across all four pillars, is hoping to help offer solutions that assist all, not just car owners.

Social impact was also a major point of discussion. For example, how do public and private entities interact when it comes to mobility? How do regulations by the government impact mobility services such as ridesharing? With phenomena such as urbanization that brings more and more people into city centers but still requires access to the outskirts due to affordability, coordinated aims and actions from all players in the ecosystem is imperative.

It’s important that we have better collaboration from a private as well as from a government standpoint. Because just replacing public transit with these other services that come about is not the solution,” said Zarif.

Ultimately, offering solutions that address all of these concerns does require collaboration, investment and coordination across corporate partners and government entities alike. According to Zarif, Daimler’s work in this space is specifically about enablement of mobility for all. In his own words: “Our aim is not to control or own all of these different groups. We understand there are different modes of transportation out there. It’s really about being able to empower people to be able to decide on where and how they want to go.”

What to do you think? How do we move together in the future? Share your thoughts with us on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #ShareTheRoad!