“My Vision: to Use Mobility Simply Everywhere!”

Ole Reuss receives us in a bright start-up office in Berlin-Friedrichshain. The 47-year-old is an ambassador for the Volkswagen Digital:Lab, one of six worldwide Innovation Labs run by Volkswagen Group IT. For around three years now, designers, developers and product managers here have been developing apps and software for Volkswagen’s mobility services, business models and technologies, including WeDeliver from the digital ecosystem Volkswagen We. With this service, users can have their online orders delivered directly to the trunk of their car. In this interview, Reuss explains what makes the Digital:Lab stand out and how it creates the best customer experience possible.

Mr. Reuss, what is the most absurd vision of the future that you have heard to date?

That automation and robotics will take over the world and kill people. An idea that is, of course, inspired by films, for only a person would have any interest in doing that. Machines themselves would not do it, because it goes against any logic in the world of algorithms.

Will there be any developments over the next three years that many would only expect in 20 to 30 years?

I recently traveled from Wolfsburg to Berlin in the T-Roc for the first time. The car stayed in its lane and maintained the proper speed and distance to the car in front as required by the traffic situation all on its own. I just had to take over the steering wheel occasionally for safety reasons. That’s also a legal requirement. So we have already come very far. And for me, it can’t happen fast enough.

What role does digitalization play for the environment?

I travel a lot and often ask myself whether traveling makes sense. After all, Skyping works too. Perhaps someday we will even be able to use hologram technology instead of traveling. In fact, the CEO of Vodafone, Dr. Hannes Ametsreiter, has just given the first hologram interview. We can prevent unnecessary travel and do not have to be mobile at all costs. A family reunion is one thing: I want to go there, see people in person and hug them. But if I have a two-hour conversation with someone in the US, do I really have to fly there?

What is the Digital:Lab in the Volkswagen Group tasked with?

Our contribution in the Digital:Lab consists of making mobility as easy as possible for customers, whether it is through an app or a mobile service. In China, 90 percent of the population now use e-commerce only on their mobile devices. This means that if we offer a service in China, we should set it up to be mobile and not as a web service. The Digital:Lab helps to determine and improve user needs for the products.

Which aspects of its work are pioneering?

On the one hand, there is pioneering work with regard to software development; on the other hand there is pioneering work with regard to culture. More than 50 people from over 25 countries work with us. This is something new not only for Volkswagen but also for Germany and Europe. The pioneering aspect lies in the answer to the question: How does cooperation work when people from so many different countries are working in one team? Our work is very agile; we have flat hierarchies. The teams have discussions in order to reach a decision. There is nobody who says: “I am deciding this now.” It’s an exciting experience.

More than 50 people from over 25 countries work with us. This is something new not only for Volkswagen but also for Germany and Europe. Ole Reuss
What topics will be of interest in the future in the area of customer service and mobility services?

We always say to our visitors: if someone tells you what the future of mobility looks like, don’t believe them. None of us knows that. My hope is that, in the future, mobility will give us back some space. We will need the space particularly in the city, because many more people will live in cities. So, then we have to consider how to connect the rural population with the city. We are currently still thinking too much in one dimension, in terms of roads and highways. The politician Dorothee Bär was laughed at for her vision of a flying taxi. I found that unfair. The air space is there, isn’t it? And we have been working on how we can use it for a long time. I believe that we will think very differently on land, on water and in the air. My vision is that mobility can be used everywhere and easily. That is not yet the case today.

*T-Roc: Fuel consumption in l/100 km: 6.8 to 5.0 (combined); CO2 emissions in g/km: 155 to 116 (combined); efficiency classes: D to B