5 questions for Lars Behrendt
You are a qualified engineer, and your work focuses mainly on being innovative. What is your relationship with being mobile?
In short, I love movement, agility, speed and hate traffic jams and standstill. On the other hand, I love challenges and find daily routines boring. That is why our Granny&Smith Innovation Agency has developed innumerable new concepts for mobility sector companies such as BMW, Volkswagen and many others. For example, we helped the Volkswagen Group to get its AI-based MOIA cab service on the road. We also helped AUDI to make self-driving vehicles roadworthy. Five years ago, together with the then mayor Olaf Scholz, we introduced the first driverless cars in Hamburg. Interestingly, things have quietened down in the traditional automotive sector. By contrast, the bicycle and leisure industries have increasingly become the new innovation drivers in this sector – something I wouldn’t really have expected.
What is your favourite type of transport, and why?
I have been on the move since I was two or three, on a BMX and mountain bike, and since turning 18 have been passionate about enduro motorcycling. I love to try out new trails or go where nobody has been before on a motorcycle. I love hill-climbing, mastering challenges and improving systems. For me, movement is an emotive experience.
What do you find fascinating about the bus industry? What do you even possibly find innovative about it?
I think there is huge untapped potential there. New customer-centred business models, new services, more intelligence and flexibility and in particular a greater appeal are all needed there in my opinion. Riding a bus is not necessarily something I really look forward to at the moment. In principle, it should be over as quickly as possible and get me from A to B at minimum cost. But that is where I believe there is room for entirely new business models and revenue sources. What is more, flying is becoming less and less sensible and justifiable from an environmental perspective. I ask myself how, where and when the bus industry will develop serious alternatives that will address this sector?
The coronavirus pandemic has changed most people’s lives and their transport habits. What lessons for the future can the mobility sector learn from the experiences of the past two years?
One thing I have learnt is that things can change pretty quickly. You have to be prepared to try out something new and all kinds of business models. You have to take things as they come. In a world in which everything is in flux, being able to develop a new core competence is a recipe for success. You have to keep swimming, or you sink.
If you had a wish, how would you like to travel in the future?
I have quite a clear idea about that. I would talk to my watch, tell it where I wanted to go and a suitable form of transport would pull up automatically. I would get in. It would take me where I wanted to go and I would get out again. Job done. Everything else would be in the background: micro payment systems, insurance, navigation, entertainment, safety, all the way to choosing a vehicle for the right occasion etc. HOWEVER: I would still want to have fun being mobile in my spare time. And I know – and no one is expecting me to say this now – I still want there to be life, to hear noises and to smell fumes. I find it a great pity that mobility increasingly no longer triggers emotions. Not allowed. Out of touch. I am convinced that there is a huge potential there that can be tapped in completely new ways, with new concepts with which we can make the mobility sector trigger emotions and experiences again – if necessary without noise and fumes.