Crashtest automotive. Fail or pass?

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Die vergangene Mobilität hat zur Krankheit des Systems geführt” (“The past mobility has led to the sickness of the system”), I recently read in the book Crashtest Mobilität. Die Zukunft des Verkehrs (1999) by the late Prof. Frederic Vester. In his opinion the automobile is still a 1st generation product (Auto 1.0), as well as the position the car occupies in our society. Together we alter the necessary development of mobility towards Auto 2.0 (car manufacturer, retailer, customer). However, the shore will ultimately make the ship turn irrevocably. With major consequences also for the automotive industry. Can a crash be prevented? Not if we continuously look for solutions within the current (sick) system.


The automotive industry is going through turbulent times. For example, in various publications one can read about the implementation of strict environmental standards, new technologies and scaling up. Moreover, these are not isolated developments. After all, the automotive industry is part of a total mobility system which, according to Vester, consists of the subsystems traffic, vehicle and business, which are embedded again in the overall system of mankind, nature and society. Therefore, we must consider the complete system when we are describing turbulence. Which is not happening enough at all now.

The joint venture in searching for future models and solutions for current problems regarding the theme fit for the future is often carried out by automotive stakeholders within the current system. But these can only be found by searching within the overarching – and according to Vester also sick– mobility system.

The system is sick. Because it does not know how to adapt to the big picture of contemporary questions. Apparently answers to the problems and challenges within the current mobility system are found by applying ‘the same technique, the same organization, the same criteria, in short, just to do everything a bit better and a bit more efficient’ – claims Vester. The problems, however, require a ‘radikale Operation’ (‘radical operation’). The longer we fail to do this, the longer the agony will last, says Vester.

Auto 1.0

Take the automobile. The concept of a car has not been changed significantly since the beginning – end of the 19th century. Car manufacturers still apply the same traditional criteria when it comes to top speed, acceleration, range, road holding, number of seats, safety and resistance coefficient value.

The question is to what extent the fantastic and valuable improvements that have been made in terms of safety, economy, comfort and pollution really contribute to the problems within the overarching systems nature and society. Little. To practically nothing.

Running out of stock of fossil raw materials, environmental pollution, space for roads and the call for a greener environment demand for solutions which match – what I call – Auto 2.0.

Auto 2.0

Didn’t he arrive already? What about e-mobility? Or the hydrogen car?

Simply replacing one energy source by another is not a real solution. It is only a small step in going forward and only material in nature. Most hybrid and electric cars are ‘new wine in old bottles’, Auto 1.1. manufacturers and customers trade a bit of responsibility towards the whole, but without making a significant change.

Auto 1.1 does contribute something positive to our carbon footprint awareness and how we deal with energy. But it is not a solution which uplifts the system. Vester describes this as follows. (1) Only implying electrification still leads to inefficient vehicles, (2) focussing on individual transport does not lead to revolutions which implement efficient, interconnected systems and (3) the marginal evolution in the energy balance is insufficient and goes way too slow. (After all, electric energy must also be generated, building these sources of energy costs money and energy and electrical energy is still generated by means of environmentally harmful methods).

Take for example Tesla. Overall developed based on the criteria of Auto 1.0. When an electric car is introduced on the market, we judge the range and top speed using the same glasses we use to look at the current system. Other examples are the “Tesla-killer Jaguar I-Pace – electric, luxury, 400 horses and a 500 km range”. But actually, we don’t improve when Tesla gets defeated with the same weapon. Or take the BMWi8 …. (Wow! Yes, my heart for cars also just skipped a beat).

No, Vester claims that the contemporary issues require an individual eco-car. For example, small, quiet, recyclable, high and short, super light, top speed of 60 km / hour, and suitable to serve as a travel capsule linked to a coupling system bringing you to the destination and detachable again on arrival. This fits in with the statistics which portray the average annual mileage (12,000 km), cars which are parked most of the time, empty seats in traffic jams and the high production costs (materials, energy) of e-cars.

Boring. According to me. But still the same shore the automotive ship will hit against. Or crash.


In addition to Auto 2.0, various other means of transport are already under construction. The recent video from IDEO carsharing is a good example. But we are not there yet.

Substantial change is not material. The real change requires a revolution in how people think about mobility and the role of the car within:

  • What if a car-free city such as Songdo (Korea) becomes standard?
  • What if new types of work environment, supported by IT, will drastically reduce the use of cars?
  • What if maintenance on Auto 2.0 only remains a fraction of what Auto 1.0 needs?
  • What if Auto 2.0 is recycled after use instead of reused (as second-hand car)?
  • What if the difference between an EV from Peugeot and an EV Mercedes-Benz is nil? And passion is no longer attributed to it?
  • What if in 25 years’ time we see mobility as a means, not as emotion?
  • What if the total costs per (individual) means of transport in 2040 are considered ‘not done’?

Ah, probably it will not explode. A mobility revolution is utopia! Nevertheless, read what Gottlieb Daimler – one of the founders of Auto 1.0 – in 1900 certainly knew:

 “Die weltweite Nachfrage an Kraftfahrzeugen wird eine Million nicht überschreiten – allein schon aus Mangel an verfügbaren Chauffeuren” 

(“The global demand for automobiles will not surpass one million – if for nothing else due to a lack of chauffeurs”)

Standstill in the form of Auto 1.0 is the real utopia, says Vester. And for sure will lead to a crash.

Call for change

A huge call for change towards Auto 2.0 and therefore also towards Automotive 2.0 is inevitable.

It starts today with the formulation of a call for change. Recognizing that “solutions are not to be found within the system in which they arise” (according to Einstein). By looking far ahead, instead of responding to yesterday and acting on tomorrow.

It will require a mind-reset of (among others) manufacturers, training institutes, distributors, government, customers and all other involved automotive stakeholders. A paradigm shift: start today with a complete reset of our viewsabout mobility of the future and the position of the car and therefore the automotive within that future.

Time for something else! What about change!




Vester, F.(1999). Crashtest Mobilität: die Zukunft des Verkehrs ; Fakten, Strategien, Lösungen. Dt. Taschenbuch-Verlag;

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