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Omnibility Talk Series - Interview with Kees Romkes, Head of Product @ Oply GmbH

• 02.04.19 •

Raid Naim • Head of Digital Transformation

"Electric vehicles will definitely play part in our future, and of course autonomous is an exciting thing to consider in regards to mobility!"

What do you think is the biggest Hype in the context of Future Mobility?

We see a lot of things happening in the short distance mobility sphere, where the roads are full, the carsharers plenty, the cycle and e-scooter will take that over. Considering that they will probably get you from A to B the fastest, and possibly the most comfortable, they are a very interesting proposition to consider.

What I personally think is interesting, are the offerings that come from Moia, Berlkönig and the collaboration from Uber and Flixbus, that deliver ‘on demand’ mobility as the first step into (getting used to) an autonomous world.

What is your role in the context of future mobility (today and in the future?)

Oply wants to make the private car obsolete / provide an easy alternative to owning a private car, to every person, and right now that means we have a fleet of cars on the road in Hamburg, Munich and Berlin, that’s available for our users for short and long term trips, ‘on demand’ (we call that FLEX) and booked up front (our PLAN bookings)

We’re not your typical A to B mobility provider. In the end, A to B means more cars on the road, in your parking spots, not there if you need it, and not making people conscious about their world and environment. Moreover, A-B mobility offers, like car2go, bike sharing, scooter sharing or Berlkönig, are mainly trips which could also happen with public transportation. Oply, however, does not aim to replace trips in public transportation, but rather make your private car obsolete. Therefore we provide simple access to cars for longer and planned trips, so you can be sure to get a car exactly when you need it, and always right in front of your door.

Electric vehicles will definitely play part in our future, and of course autonomous is an exciting thing to consider in regards to mobility!

Are we too German-centric when we look at the mobility world?

At Oply we have our eyes and ears wide open to other parts of the world, we’re eager to learn from others. This can be a very practical example (Yandex.drive for instance shared that they’re pre-heating their cars for the users at the moment of booking) up to business level (what are others doing with electric vehicles?).

But true, Germany is a market which is quite diversified in terms of mobility offers, which is not a bad thing. Many examples show, that concepts which work in Germany also are well received by customers in other (european) countries.

What do you think are the biggest challenges we are facing in Germany and on a global level?

I personally think that we need to quickly consider that mobility wishes change for the new generations that are upcoming. Born in 1983 I’m in the chasm between Gen Y and millennials, but talking to younger colleagues and potential employees -- in general they don’t want to travel over an hour to work. Let alone using a car for that. Mobility only seems to be a makeshift solution, how do we work (with each other) in the future? How do we prevent cities to become more and more crowded, enabling ‘remote work’ without the travels?

Autonomous might turn the daily commute into working hours, but do we really need the commute?

Who would be your ideal partners for a future mobility ecosystem?

We’re talking to a lot of potential partners that are additions to our offering. Say you have a business meeting in Munich, but are based in Berlin, how do you get there, most conveniently without having to switch multiple apps?

Do you fly early in, in the morning, grab an Oply near the airport to drive to your meeting, drive back and fly back to Berlin?

These example already includes a multitude of partners you can travel with, where a big part of your trip has nothing to do with our cars. Still, we want to deliver a “mobility you’ll love” solution in any of these cases.

Is Asia already far ahead from us here in Europe and is this something we should have in mind when we talk about the future of mobility?

I think the biggest thing we don’t have on the radar is their advancement in EV, with us navel gazing at the big companies in Germany and seeing what they -maybe- deliver over the next years. Combining efforts for the ‘big three’ in Germany on autonomous is a great step in countering that, but the rapidly increasing growth of the Chinese mobility and their reliance on autonomous vehicles will make them very, very able to deliver this in Europe too.

Mobility related companies might more and more need to become software companies. What are the biggest challenges to tackle?

The efforts of ‘the big three’ in Germany are praiseworthy, and they definitely do some things really great. But at the end of the day, even their ‘innovation hubs’ and ‘transformation labs’ have all started from the same roots as their factories and showrooms. In building a vehicle with four wheels and an engine.

Looking at how companies with e-bikes, but also ride hailing like über and clevershuttle have been developing so quickly, so rapidly, considering to solve the problems their users have (and not just the results of the business stakeholders) is going to prove to be a huge change.

I think every retailer should think from the perspective of their (future) customer. What does he/she want in regards to mobility? How will they get from A to B? What do they find in a showroom (that they can only reach by car)? What services do they need, that you can offer? And a lot of that starts these days as software.

How do you imagine the mobility market of the future - will sharing options outnumber ownership?

Ownership still has a very specific set of benefits and attributes that sharing doesn’t have. To name an example, our (short term rental) business model only makes sense in mid to big size cities, car sharing only makes sense in even bigger cities (from a purely financial perspective).

My friend living in a small village of less than 10.000 inhabitants, there it doesn’t make sense to do A to B carsharing. But perhaps having a handful of (specific use case) cars for those 10.000 does suddenly make financial sense. He also needs to go to IKEA once in a while, and pick up something, which means his own car can be smaller to use for day to day.

Eventually (and I always am surprised by how fast these changes happen) semi-autonomous and autonomous will take over, the ‘on demand mobility’ will also allow the smallest area to have access to a large fleet of cars and options.

How will the future of mobility change us as inhabitants of the cities of the future?

As said I think that everyone potentially can have access at any remote location, even without having a driver's license. We can eat while driving, sleep while driving, meet while driving, hang-out while driving, and perhaps live in a place that’s less “static” as our cities now, occasional, by the season.

I’m sketching an ideal world, but a vision I can dream of and hopefully turn (a part of it) into reality!

About Kees Romkes

kees-romkes

After graduating in Communication, Multimedia and Design, Kees Romkes worked for different companies like Edenspiekermann, Styla GmbH and CareerFoundry where he developed his leadership skills. Since April 2018 he is Product Manager at the carsharing company Oply. Working in the mobility sector Kees is very passionate about developing solutions at the intersection between people and technology, with a clear focus on the mobility of the future.

About Oply GmbH

Omnibility Interview Series - Oply GmbH

Oply is your neighbour on wheels. Whether you spontaneously need a vehicle or want to book it for a longer trip, whether you're shopping in a furniture store or on a weekend trip: with tailor-made and transparent price models and four different vehicle categories, the car you need is available in every situation - from compact cars to family cars and vans. Oply ensures that city dwellers always have a suitable car available in their neighbourhood - without having to own it themselves. Oply is a brand of the mobility provider ExaMotive S.A.

Want to gain more insights? Then head to futurice.com/automotive to learn more about our approach to the changing world of the Mobility industry.

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