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 Mobility and Aerospace
Just How Well Do Computers Understand People?
Many things seem to move faster in China. And with more ease.
The Volkswagen subsidiary Mobility Asia, which is now active in the country, develops digital services that make everyday life easier.
Sania de Miroschedji had of course heard about the speed at which life proceeds in China. He’d also heard about the enthusiasm locals have for new technologies. And yet it still leaves him plenty of
reasons to scratch his head, even a year since moving there. At a market just outside Beijing, for example. Cash? No one uses that any more. Not even seniors. When an elderly farmer sells cabbages to a retiree, both pull out their smartphones.
She scans his code, the payment is confirmed.
Or when ordering food. All you need is an app. And then
there’s the delivery robot that looks like R2-D2 from Star Wars. It was standing in front of the door to de Miroschedji’s apartment one evening, opened a hatch, and handed over the food that had been ordered while the display told him to enjoy his meal. “Digitalization is permeating all segments of society in China,” says de Miroschedji. “And this technology can in- spire more enthusiasm than I ever thought possible.”
How else it can be used to make everyday life easier for people is something the chief financial officer intends to find out with his start-up Mobility Asia. The Volkswagen sub- sidiary, headquartered in the Chaoyang business district, was founded in May 2018 in order to develop connectivity solutions. This encompasses all the services “that run on a
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head unit,” as de Miroschedji explains—for example, parking, charging, music streaming, and payment services.
These services used to play a subordinate role in the au- tomotive world of yesterday, if they managed to play one at all. The design, the range, the type of motor—these were the critical factors. The Chinese value high-quality workmanship, says de Miroschedji. And yet digital assistants with additional functions are becoming more decisive for them. “This will be a vehicle’s USP in the future.” Structuring this transformation will be “a pretty big challenge” for all manufacturers. And will be for the German manager as well, who studied at the Euro- pean Business School in Oestrich-Winkel in Hesse, and was most recently in charge of the in-house consultancy Volk- swagen Consulting. He now intends to focus on establishing the VW Group’s mobility business in Asia. The newly founded company already has a staff of 250 employees. That figure will continue to rise. Speed is everything. “The rate of adaptation is extremely high. When a company comes up with a new in- vention, it only takes a year until the entire industry is reverse engineering it.” This includes robots with big, wide eyes that talk to the driver and front passenger—and are all the rage.
What might remind Europeans or Americans of childhood toys is actually providing promising solutions for mobility. Dig- italization is expected to help to keep urbanization and traf- fic chaos in check. Sania de Miroschedji considers the “smart city”—the intelligently interconnected city—to be the “culmi- nation of the mobility of the future.” And this in China, of all places, where longer routes tend to be covered by airplane and train, while cars, in contrast, face so much congestion in urban areas that he says: “New mobility concepts have an enormous potential here.” In order to make the situation more tolerable, Mobility Asia is creating scenarios and planning services that will provide assistance. Scenarios and services like the follow- ing one: a driver is sitting in the car and tells the vehicle that he would like to go to the movies and needs to charge his electric battery at the same time. The onboard computer books every- thing in advance—the parking spot with the right kind of plug- in charging station, and the movie tickets. The bill is charged to the car’s license plate, while the charging process can be monitored on a smartphone app designed just for this purpose.
Voice recognition technology plays a key role and enables dialogue. Sania de Miroschedji explains, “This is made pos- sible by artificial intelligence, which, when asked if I need to wear a jacket, understands that I want to know how warm it is outside.” An innovation that is being embraced enthusiasti-
Sania de Miroschedji
(left) has been working
in Beijing as the chief financial officer for the Volkswagen subsidiary Mobility Asia since summer 2018. He manages the Group’s business with digital services in China.

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