If you want to know what the future holds in store for an automotive brand, Eileen Mandir knows the score. As Head of Product & Lab at moovel, Daimler’s own mobility brand, the traffic expert scents out the best route through the urban network.
Below us lies Stuttgart’s Marien Square with its yellow cog railway terminus. Not to forget several cycle paths, passers-by, main traffic arteries, a taxi rank and some of the car2go smart fortwo electric drives that offer electric carsharing in Stuttgart. Not too long ago, moovel – the Daimler mobility brand – took over three floors on the edge of this hub. moovel’s mission: to research, highlight, shape, and provide the future of mobility. This will involve using a range of mobility options in an intelligent way. And while there is no term for this yet, it might turn out to be “to moovel.” With her doctorate in traffic research, Eileen Mandir tends to focus on the hidden structures in the busy throng below her window. After all, you need to identify a city’s traffic DNA and mobility fingerprint before you can program an app that knows and communicates each and every connection. It’s as simple as that. And as complicated.
Ms. Mandir, with its car2go carsharing scheme and taxi brokering service mytaxi, Daimler was among the first to test new business models. Now, residents of Stuttgart and Hamburg can also use the brand’s moovel app to book train and local transport journeys. Are you launching a mobility revolution?
Eileen Mandir: The complete integration of all traffic options in Stuttgart and Hamburg is indeed a global first, but not a revolution. With this option, moovel simply highlights a development that is already brewing in urban centers around the world: The boundaries between individual traffic modes – car, train, local transport, bike – are blurring, routes join up, and users increasingly use different modes of transport. Against this background, it’s only natural that a car manufacturer like Daimler would evolve into a mobility service provider. Our ultimate goal is a perfect, seamless trip involving one or more modes of transport where everything – from the initial search and booking all the way to payment – is handled by a single smartphone app for maximum user-friendliness.
How does the average moovel user move through the city?
Eileen Mandir: Routes and combinations are as different as the people themselves. The moovel app aims to provide people with the best possible route for their needs. Depending on the customer and situation, this might be the fastest, cheapest, most comfortable, or most interesting route. Maybe, they travel to the train station with their own car or a car2go, followed by a train ride, and then a final stretch in a cab booked via mytaxi or using a bikesharing scheme. Or maybe it would be the other way around.
How did the world’s oldest car manufacturer get the radical idea to occasionally leave the car at home?
Eileen Mandir: Back in 2007, Daimler was one of the first European companies to clearly state that they wanted to create business models along the entire value chain; business models that would go way beyond building, developing, and selling vehicles. The very same year, the business innovation department started to consider these plans. This was the first, important step to developing and realizing complementary, or rather frontally disruptive, business models within the corporation. The development process was all about being at the forefront and playing a proactive role in affecting change. The most prominent example would be car2go. It put Daimler ahead of its time.
Eileen Mandir knows that, just like traffic streams, ideas require a guidance system. With this in mind, the moovel team of developers, designers, data analysts, communicators, and marketing specialists created a “new work” concept in Stuttgart. The three light and airy levels with their phone boxes, sofas, roof terrace, and open kitchen are suffused with a creative start-up spirit. Once a month, the “Mobile Maultaschen” development group meets for a communal cookout. On the eighth floor, where the developers work, two e-bikes are charging while a longboard leans against a couch. Naturally, mobility starts the moment people move. And at the moovel lab, nothing ever stands still: The interdisciplinary team of three researches our future movements through urban space. Here, data streams become art and people discuss the potential of taxi drones.
Since you are based in Stuttgart, how do you keep up with Silicon Valley’s momentum?
Eileen Mandir: Sometimes, being on “the outskirts” can give you a great perspective on things. Meanwhile, moovel not only has outposts in Stuttgart, Hamburg, and Berlin, but also in Portland and Austin, two very hip cities with a thriving start-up culture. In the USA, we recently consolidated all of our activities under the moovel North America umbrella to develop mobile ticketing technologies tailored to public transport and integrated into the local transportation company apps as white label solutions.
Is there really such a huge difference between the way Europeans and US Americans navigate their cities?
Eileen Mandir: Yes, our mobility behavior tends to be rooted in culture. For example, people from Europe and the United States have very different perceptions of local transport. That’s why we find it so important to design mobility from and for very different markets, aligning our products to local requirements. So, it makes sense to develop an app used by Americans in the USA.
As Head of Product & Lab you work in both present and future …
Eileen Mandir: That’s right. In my everyday work on our moovel mobility app, I deal with product design, product positioning, customer segments, and user behavior. My work involves traditional product management, but also cultural design within the company. How do you manage procedures – from internal communications to approval processes? We also deal with several transport associations and public institutions. Here, a key question might be: How do they envisage mobility and which aspect of this could moovel take over?
And then the moovel lab develops the resulting experimental special projects like the smart fortwo greenskin or the so-called urban mobility printer which turns traffic data into works of art?
Eileen Mandir: Yes. The idea for the moovel lab arose from our interdisciplinary work. We communicate a lot with start-ups and public institutions and our own teams also boast a range of experts. With the moovel lab, we not only want to investigate how mobility behaviors are changing in urban space, but also encourage dialog and discourse between the different disciplines, learn from this, and create further innovations. After all, mobility is something that affects us all.