How Daimler looked into the future

Almost ten years ago, Daimler AG launched a new era of mobility: Car sharing, Mobility apps, Mobility-as-a-Service, and On-Demand-Mobility. Services that are available worldwide today. But how did the Urban Mobility adventure begin at Daimler?

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it." This is how the US computer scientist Alan Kay once spoke.

Alan Kay knows his business about future-oriented work. The current MIT lecturer researched as a senior scientist for tech pioneers like Atari and Apple, and shaped the architecture of graphical user interfaces with his concept of icons and windows.

In 2007, a young team in the division of Business Innovation followed Alan Kay's approach: predict the future, invent the future. In a poorly furnished office, between half-packed boxes, the founding members stuck their heads together on a rainy autumn day and wondered what urban mobility could look like in 10 to 20 years.

Car sharing as a bold idea

They juggled with ideas until the question arose: Are alternative car rental concepts a potential mass market? How can car rental be automated? Shortly afterward, a bold idea was born: city dwellers should be able to drive their own cars every day without owning a car. Car sharing.

Today a prominent buzzword in the automobile cosmos, at that time this concept mostly abruptly caused frizzing eyebrows. Too complicated, too inflexible, too non-transparent. But it was precisely these weak points that should be addressed. City dwellers should be able to access a car anywhere and at any time without a basic charge. Thanks to GPS and their smartphones. A short time later, the first presentation entitled "City Smart" wandered through the corridors of Daimler AG.

car2go, mytaxi and moovel are changing urban mobility

Two friends, one problem

While in Stuttgart attempts were being made to spread the word about the new generation of car sharing, one evening in Munich the two Hamburg-based Jan-Niclaus Mewes and Sven Külper had a completely different challenge: How do we get a taxi without a suitable telephone number? That was a question that kept them busy not only that night.

Again, a combination of GPS and smartphone was to provide the solution - via app, via location check. Only what to do if in 2008 not every taxi driver is on the move with a smartphone? Then the smartphone has to come to the taxi driver.

Together with brother Johannes Mewes, Jan-Niclaus Mewes and Sven Külper set to work in a small attic apartment. Basic research was in demand. Conversations with taxi drivers, handing out flyers. The first big investment was to give away 100 iPhones to Hamburg taxi drivers and to make the advantages of these little all-rounders appealing to them. A big mobile phone gift campaign on the street? What at first sounded like a crazy idea turned out to be a brilliant move.

At car2go, as Daimler AG's car-sharing service was named, the innovative concept also made its way onto the streets. An enthusiastic preparation phase was followed by the first pilot in Ulm. Ulm became Austin and Vancouver. When car2go was launched in Hamburg in 2011, the next start-up was born a short time later in the Daimler division of Business Innovation.

Mobility Services in numbers

car2go

  • Founded in 2008
  • 3.6 million customers worldwide
  • 26 locations worldwide in 9 countries
  • 14,000 vehicles
  • More than 10,000 electric trips per day

mytaxi

  • Founded in 2009
  • Available in 100 European cities
  • 100.000 registered drivers
  • Over 10 million passengers

moovel

  • Founded in 2013
  • 6.5 million customers
  • Serves 18 transportation companies in the USA alone
  • One transaction every 1.1 seconds

moovel connects everything

moovel wanted to put an end to unnecessary jumping around between various apps, with confusing payment processes in order to get from A to B over longer distances. One app, one route, one payment process. This is how the world's first mobility app was created, which makes it possible to search, book and pay for different mobility offers. The reward was the German Mobility Award. Cities and municipalities became aware of the offer. Daimler had discovered a new, huge field of customers: Metropolitan areas.

At the same time, excitement about mytaxi grew. Daimler was also involved with the newly founded Daimler Mobility Services GmbH as an investor and supported the founding team with its extensive network and know-how.

"In order to come one step closer to our vision of becoming Europe's largest and best taxi app, we needed a strong partner at our side," commented Jan-Niclaus Mewes on the considerations when mytaxi finally became part of the Daimler family.

Daimler Mobility Services GmbH, a subsidiary of Daimler Financial Services AG, took over responsibility for the innovation hub Business Innovation in 2011 and as a result also for the mobility concept car2go. With moovel and the one hundred percent takeover of mytaxi, the integration of further brands and products resulted in a unique mobility ecosystem.

iPhone, Lewis Hamilton and George W. Bush

When a young team from Daimler AG looked to the future in autumn 2007, the iPhone was only a few months old. Lewis Hamilton drove his first Formula 1 season and the US president's name was George W. Bush. An episode that almost ten years later looks as if it was already epochs ago. Nobody talked about future players like Uber, Didi or Lyft.

From supposedly crazy ideas that arose over coffee and beer, 31 million customers came. Bold concepts and investments turned into 186 million transactions. From improvised offices and attic apartments, 130 cities around the world offer a new experience of mobility.

September 2007: Predicting the future, inventing the future

  • In the future, individual mobility will go beyond owning a car.
  • Flexibility and almost unconditional availability are the decisive buzzwords for services in the 21st century
  • The smartphone will be the perfect anchor point to control these services

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