Future in Motion

Researching and shaping the future of mobility: a look ahead to the year 2025.

In the automotive industry, as in other sectors, the current decade has seen the scale of changes affecting the environment and competition reach unprecedented complexity. This is posing new challenges for research work at the Company and transforming the way we understand the future, turning it from something predictable into an exploratory and participatory space for creativity. The results of our research work are giving us an insight into the current and future trends in innovative areas of technology. This knowledge is of crucial importance to the direction of our research and development activities. Only armed with a reliable idea of the technological possibilities and their limits can we position the Group in a way that ensures sustainable growth.

Together with renowned research partners, we have identified key areas that will have an effect far beyond 2025. This is giving us the chance to help shape the answers to the questions of the future. The changes are also bringing challenges in the form of competitive pressure. We regard this as an opportunity to proactively build the future.

The issues we will face in the run-up to 2025 are challenging, and cooperation will be required over the next decade if we are to solve them. Such cooperative solutions are essential to answering the questions that will be asked of the mobility of the future and meeting the needs that will arise. We are reorienting our activities and strategic investment plans towards tomorrow’s mobility. The Group faces the largest transformation in its history, which offers us great potential to mold and safeguard the future together and in a sustainable way.

Recently, trends such as digitalization and the fusion of individual technologies have led to innovations in the field of automation. They have also created the environment needed to expand these innovations into further industries and areas of our lives. We are now gaining first-hand experience of the application of these technologies on a large scale thanks to Industry 4.0, digital assistants and the networking of everyday objects in the Internet of things. The relationship between people and technology will develop over the coming decades from one of interaction to synchronize interplay. Service robots, smart traffic management systems and information technologies will mutually reinforce each other. Growing knowledge and new techniques in the area of artificial intelligence in particular are enabling new innovative applications to emerge from these technologies. Predictive analyses reveal relationships and patterns within large quantities of data, allowing behavior and events to be predicted with a high degree of certainty. They provide a basis for customized solutions with global variations. The future world of mobility will enable people and goods to be transported by largely autonomous systems and optimize flows of traffic and travel in order to meet the sharp rise in demand for mobility. From 2020, highly and fully automated vehicles will be put to a range of uses in many regions.

The premises of 21st century mobility systems differ radically from those of the 20th century. The ways in which we move people, materials and products are shifting with new technological possibilities, changing values and economic innovations. Intelligent and integrated systems will have an impact on our mobility habits, lifestyles, urban communities and global supply chains. These systems will set the benchmarks against which the mobility providers of the future will be measured. Demand for mobility tailored to many different locations and deployment scenarios will also grow in future. However, industry cannot shape mobility alone. Cities, regions and politicians must develop strategies together. Smart cities are the first step towards rethinking the future shape of urban life. Integrating relevant infrastructure and optimizing the flow of supplies and transport are the key action areas.

Making sure that the highly digitalized mobility systems of the future are secure will require comprehensive strategies for resilient infrastructures and consistent protection of sensitive data on people, technology and systems. These systems must respond effectively to changes and threats (such as cyberattacks, power cuts or hardware failure), recover swiftly from complications and even withstand disasters. The rapid growth of the Internet of things, which also includes vehicles, is expanding not only opportunities for value generation using digital data, but also creating potential targets. The resilience of these systems will be key, particularly where autonomous systems and the flow of digital data are concerned.

In the future, mobility will not only mean moving from place to place, but will be expected to create health benefits too. People’s understanding of health will undergo a fundamental shift, with ever more of us taking responsibility for it into our own hands. Health will be understood not only in the physiological sense, but will encompass our all-round personal well-being. The design of future mobility systems will take this broader concept of health into account.

Above all, future mobility will involve a change in business models. Value creation in numerous industries is currently in a state of flux, and this transformation has already manifested itself in the mobility sector in a variety of ways. Shared use of goods, consideration of customer specifications in the product development process and the influence of social networks on products are all becoming increasingly important. Different regional solutions will also develop. Advancing digitalization is increasingly translating economic processes into algorithms, giving rise to completely new customer experiences. Developing new competencies in the area of agile and scalable business models will be a competitive factor over the next decade. These new business models must address the measures needed to ensure sustainable growth and reduce the impact on environmental systems.

An awareness of sustainability and the realization of social, environmental and economic goals to ensure the world remains livable for generations to come: these are the major challenges that we are facing. Though there have been positive developments such as the Paris climate agreement, many questions concerning the realization of set goals remain unresolved. To limit the adverse effects of climate change, consistent measures and regulations will have to be implemented in all areas in the near future. As it can also be assumed that purely technological solutions will be unable to meet this challenge – given that some environmentally friendly technologies cannot be produced without an impact on the climate, and therefore involve feedback effects – it will also be essential for individuals to change their behavior. Strong, progressive regulation of the mobility sector can therefore be expected in the near future, and will shape the mobility of the future in a way that reaches beyond the question of how vehicles are powered. Proposals, models and strategies by individuals, cities and regions all around the world are already leading this development.

Our future program TOGETHER – Strategy 2025 is addressing forward-looking topics, thus laying the foundations needed to achieve our global sustainability goals. Over the coming years, we will make major investments in the technologies of the future that are necessary to realize our vision. This will include the electrification of the model range, the digitalization offensive throughout the Group, safe autonomous driving and the offering of mobility services.

The Volkswagen Group has achieved important milestones and embarked on new initiatives in these areas in 2016. We want to make a decisive contribution to shaping not only today’s mobility, but tomorrow’s as well.