The automotive industry is disrupted massively. The newcomer Tesla, a pioneer in electric vehicles, enjoys a higher company valuations than Volkswagen or Toyota – this is all the more surprising as Tesla sold roughly 370 000 cars last year, while Volkswagen and Toyota sell more than 10 million cars each on a yearly basis.
The disruption in the Automotive Industry is manifold: First, the combustion engine based on fossil fuels is replaced successively by new drive technologies (electric, fuel cells, synthetic fuels). Second, new players enter the stage (Tesla, Google, Microsoft – to name but a few). Third, new business models arise (car sharing). Fourth, the car is becoming less a hardware product and more of a software product, it was compared on several occasions to a “Smartphone on wheels”; the share of software in the automobile will grow massively in the next few years.
Actually, one would expect a flourishing start-up scene around the automobile in Germany, home of Automotive pioneers Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz. But – on the contrary – the automobile journalist Don Dahlmann makes a sober conclusion in a column on the start-up scene in Germany: “But in the car industry and the mobility market, of all places, people are lagging behind. That is astonishing. Of all countries, the country where the modern automobile was invented and which for decades was considered a model of technical innovation, has not managed to create a start-up culture for the future of the automotive industry.”>/i>
It is true, the start-up scene may not be up to the high expectations that one would have in a country home to many Automotive pioneers. However, there’s for sure some promising startups. Let’s take a look at 7 exciting start-ups that are helping to shape the future of the automobile. The focus will not be exclusively on Germany.
The assessment of traffic situations is a key feature in order to achieve an autonomous vehicle (SAE Level 4 and Level 5), e.g. technologies that provide information about obstacles. A key technology for this is LIDAR, also referred to as the “radar” for a car/truck. This technology is provided by the company Blickfeld. Here is an insightful interview (in German) with the founder Dr. Florian Petit: LIDAR: Functionality and importance for the future of the automotive industry
Foundation in 2017. In Munich. Website: www.blickfeld.com
Once vehicles are autonomous: How do the passenger while away, as the steering wheel doesn’t require their attention anymore? – Well, they have time for work, for entertainment, for socialising. Infotainment becomes the linchpin of the vehicle. The StartUp “MBition” does just that, it develops the infotainment system of the future for Mercedes-Benz cars, as well as the development environment for software developers who will create apps for the Mercedes App ecosystem. Watch closely at the management board: One of the managing directors is Gregor Zetsche … Guess who that could be!
Foundation in 2017. In Berlin. Website: mbition.io
e.GO Mobile AG
The company is a spin-off from the renowned University RWTH Aachen: Prof. Dr. Günther Schuh has launched the electric vehicle manufacturer, which already employs more than 500 people and works closely with the university, the research institutes and the 360 technology companies connected to the university. Focus: electric vehicles for short-distance travel.
Foundation in 2015. In Aachen. Webseite: e-go-mobile.com
Sono Motors is also about building electric vehicles, namely a vehicle with integrated solar cells – claim: “The first electric car that charges itself”.
Foundation in 2016. In Munich. Webseite: sonomotors.com
Let’s take a look to France. Here you will find the company EasyMile, which is focused on the development of autonomous vehicles. For example, the company operates a fleet of electrified, autonomous buses in the German city of Monheim (known for its progressive trade tax policy). The company has also a cooperation with 1st tier company Continental.
Foundation in 2014. In Toulouse. Webseite: easymile.com
Another promising Automotive StartUp can be found in Eastern Europe, namely in Budapest. This is where the company aiMotive is located. The software allows virtual simulation environments to be set up, driving situations to be simulated, massive test runs to be orchestrated and much more.
Foundation in 2015. In Budapest. Webseite: aimotive.com
The future of Mobility will see a new kind of collaboration or intermeshing between personal traffic and public transport – this disruption will take place even before the advent of autonomous vehicles. So-called collective taxis (compare pilot projects in Berlin: BerlKönig) are expanding the range of mobility options, leading to new patterns of use. Door2Door offers municipal transport companies a software (platform) for the development of a multimodal transport system in cities, especially on-demand shared taxis.
Click here for an exciting interview (in the Hy podcast) with the founder of, Maxim Nohroudi (in German): Podcast, The future of mobility
Foundation in 2012. In Berlin. Webseite: www.door2door.io
Addendum December 2022: The company door2door was acquired in March 2022 by the Mobility Start-Up SWVL based in Dubai. Insolvency was filed for door2door in December 2022