Influencer series: the future of mobility & self driving technology

Kilian Von Neumann-Cosel weighs in on self-driving car technology and new and improved transportation system of the future

Expertise: Automotive, the future of car, and technology simulation

In our first influencer series, Kilian Von Neumann Cosel, CEO of BFFT America, weighs in on the future of automotive and the requisite technologies that will usher in a new era of mobility. In March, Kilian joined as a panelist for Driving the Future of Automotive, the first in a series of “connected” technology, startup-centric meetups. Kilian’s firm, BFFT is a German American engineering firm specializing in electronics, alternative drive technologies, and hardware and software development, with partners including VW and Audi.

According to Kilian, the U.S. and worldwide markets will pivot away from complete car-reliance toward multi-modal transportation systems that balance the needs of drivers alongside those of public and sharing modes of transport (think of a next generation Uber service provisioned by Google), an increasing imperative as populations become more urbanized and the arterials they use more congested.

Part of this transformation will include self-driving cars, the takeoff of the sharing economy, and an upending of the transportation system as we know it today. 20 years from now, Kilian envisions a time when individuals will enter an autonomous, shared car, type in their location, and sit back hands free. Along the way, these riders will opt in or out of picking up others along the route. In return for picking up others, riders might accrue points or credits meant to incentivize the populace to participate in this new, smart, and shared transportation system.

In this new transportation system, automotive incumbents will find the market open wide to software giants like google that will introduce futuristic cars and other now foreign concepts aimed at making the transportation of individuals more efficient and comprising an evolved paradigm of mobility.

For traditional car manufacturers, innovation will inevitably center on the car itself, out of the sheer necessity to protect organizational structures and product offerings built around the physical production of vehicles. “There will always be car manufacturers, and the people that make them,” Kilian offered. Whether the cars of the future will look the way they do today is the question.

BFFT of America, the subsidiary of BFFT of Germany, which Kilian leads stateside knows a thing or two about the actual production of vehicles, and the steps Audi has undergone to build its autonomous vehicle Jack and other self-driving and advanced technologies rolled into Audi’s fleets. For over 15 years, the firm has perfected the driving assistance systems that have formed the basis for self-driving car technology, including the development of advanced sensors, better algorithms, next generation evolutions, safety functions like automatic breaking, adapted air bag deployment, and other sensor networks tracking what is happening around the car.

Perhaps his team’s focus on testing and simulation influence what Kilian sees as the biggest opportunities, but there is no doubt in his mind that in order to get to the future of car that experts predict, there is a need for new testing and simulation technologies able to safely bring cars of the future into production. This self-driving car and other new concepts occur in uncharted consumer territories, necessitating what Kilian sees as indefinite testing. According to Kilian, Tesla has proven a shining model of a startup that has put the right amount of focus around not only development, but also, importantly, testing. The success of the S model is a testament to this approach, described Kilian.

The American market, and especially the North American Region where Kilian focuses his team’s efforts, has proven it’s ready for new technologies, demonstrated by the proliferation of electric vehicles. Electric vehicles, however, are only the beginning of the transformation of the car and mobility market, with subsequent expansions happening along the self-driving car, connected vehicles like Teslas, and the sharing economy represented by the likes of Uber. Further proof of the West Coast’s readiness for new technologies is illustrated by California’s spearheading regulatory and licensing efforts around these new technologies. Regulation and licensing are both imperatives, Kilian stated, in streamlining the fleets of connected, shared, electric and self-driving cars of the future.

How startups get involved today*:

  • Testing
  • Individualization of self driving technologies based on consumer market/region

*The success of adoption and integration of startup technologies hinge on their ability to showcase the unique functions of the solution in a demo environment. BFFT has integrated this approach into its everyday process, spending over 15 years to demo new technologies that accurately respond to dynamic driving scenarios in closed simulators.