Happy New Year!

2020 has demanded a lot from us (from some even more than from others). Looking back, I will remember this last year most for how quickly changes were suddenly possible. Some of them – such as wearing masks, keeping the distance and reducing contact – will be reversed as soon as possible after Covid 19, others – such as permitting bars and restaurants to serve food and drinks outdoors  – are certainly an option to hold on once it gets nice and warm again, and others – such as working from home or video conferencing – will surely stay with us as a “New Normal”.

In terms of the mobility of the future, I see two experiences from 2020 as especially helpful: Firstly, we were able to even change things that have been considered more or less inalterable for a long time. We proved not only that working from home is possible but also that it significantly reduces traffic, we reduced overall CO2 emissions and improved air quality visibly, we boosted the share of  electrified vehicles, temporarily installed and tested structural alternatives such as pop-up bicycle lanes, and even converted long term urban vision into concrete concepts like the 15-Minute City. Secondly but not less important, we learned that for the general reflection on whether changes are meaningful and possible and thus an elevated willingness to change, we should not always need a pandemic.

With this in mind, I wish you all the best for the New Year 2021.

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Man does not come from A to B on data alone. The unbroken importance of automotive development in a world focused on digitalization.

In terms of future mobility, digitalization may be key for advanced vehicle features, online fleet control, and digital mobility services, but an in-depth expertise in software and data alone is certainly not sufficient. At the end of the day (if you don’t want to walk), you need a physical motorized vehicle which – regardless of whether it is a passenger car, a minivan or a bus, whether it is owned or shared, and whether you are the driver or a passenger -someone has to develop and manufacture.

Developing especially a premium passenger car is still an amazingly complex process. It starts with transforming the full bandwidth of customer, legal and economic requirements into a harmonious, consistent and competitive complete vehicle concept, followed by breaking this down and designing thousands of hard- and software pieces, merging them again into a complete vehicle, and ends with testing and validating the this vehicle, sometimes again and again.

While chatting with me about this, one of my former Automotive Engineering students at Clemson University mentioned that my textbook Automotive Development Processes – Processes for Successful Customer Oriented Vehicle Development would still be her “bible” when it comes to holistically understanding the interlaced work streams of complete vehicle development. Slightly flattered, I took my dusty copy out of the shelf and examined critically what I had compiled 11 years ago. My findings: Then, I didn’t even mention autonomous driving, and it seems that my confidence in the further development of high voltage batteries and thus the future of electric drivetrains in general was strongly limited. But while design and testing methods have certainly improved over the years in all areas of R&D, and especially agile techniques have brought the development of mechatronic systems to a new level, the overall approach of transforming customer expectations, market demand, regulatory framework and innovative technologies into product strategy, concepts and architectures, and then closely monitoring the desired complete vehicle properties during hardware and software development has not changed much ever since.

The fine art of conducting the highly sophisticated orchestra of the involved processes – from body design and crashworthiness to ECU programming and E/E system integration, from interior styling and cabin comfort to engine design and emission control, from spring-damper-system configuration and agility to connectivity and theft deterrence – is still the indispensable basis for successful complete vehicle development and compiled in this textbook.

And when we master these basics, it makes sense to go ahead with digitalization …

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