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In 50 years, there won’t be a need for driver’s tests or licenses anymore.

Picture automobiles not as something you own or drive yourself. Instead, they are a service – something that can be called on-demand and used for a limited time. This imagination is no longer a thing of science fiction. It is a very real prospect as digitalization, which has re-shaped everything from our interpersonal communication to business logistics, begins to transform the face of the automobile industry. From Mercedes Benz “Luxury in Motion” test vehicle, to the Airbus self-driving and -flying pop-up Taxi Car concept, to Ford’s “Autolivery”, automation in automobiles is taking the industry by the wheel – literally.

At the SAP Alumni event, which took place on March 24, I had the opportunity to speak with some of the brightest minds in the technology field about what this future of mobility might look like, as cars transition from a possession to simply being another hardware device in a connected and integrated system of driving technology.

The SAP Alumni event was the first global gathering of current and former SAP employees and SAP co-founder Dietmar Hopp in the Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena in Sinsheim,

The agenda addressed topics regarding personal and corporate responsibility in the context of technology trends. Participants could take part in round table discussions with experts and explore cutting-edge technology trends and their impact on society.

The insights were astounding. Many of our participants felt they would already be ready to step into a self-driving car, albeit that many had reservations about a flying drone taxi concept. At the same time, many did feel comfortable with the idea of drone’s being used for “last mile” delivery of goods and services and felt that this could improve the logistics process. This overwhelming acceptance was supported by the fact that assistance systems based around technology are already becoming an integral part of driving, and the reliance on these systems is assisting with the transition to autonomous vehicles. Overall, the workshop participants articulated a strong sense of trust in technology and openness to innovation in the realm of mobility. This, coupled with the decreasing ideological importance that younger generations place on car ownership, points to a bright future for the automation of transportation.

Open questions remain, however – specifically whether these technologies are moving too quickly for our societal systems, from ethics and legality to inclusivity and security, to keep pace. How much innovation can a society and its communities tolerate, and how quickly? Some of the potential issues raised by the discussion participants included our preparedness to handle the potential loss of jobs due to this technology, or the exclusion of older generations with these new processes. Then come the ethical dilemmas – who decides, in cases of accidents, between life and death? The programming of these technologies requires the consideration of scenarios that may cause harm, which raises legal questions of liability. Who should be held accountable – programmers? Users? Manufacturers? Finally, data security and openness to hacking poses a huge threat that companies must address moving forward.

The workshop, however, posed these questions rather as open points to be discussed and solved, rather than as problems which will exclude the use of self-driving automobiles in the future. One helpful bridge may be the step-by-step progression of this technology. This progression would come first through assistance, secondly through partial automation, before finally reaching a point of full automation.

Despite the challenges these technologies raise, many of the participants felt confident that there will not be driver’s tests or licenses in 50 years, and excited for the possibilities this poses for new business models around technology and the future of mobility.

You are an SAP Alumni and you are interested in joining similar events in the future? Then join the SAP Alumni Network now (https://alumni.sap.com/).

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