According to an article in the German magazine Capital 26th of February 2018 there is a struggle taking place over who has the right to define what “local transport” means and what local transport should look like in the future. This is a struggle that is taking place between Deutsche Bahn, local public transport authorities and the car producers. Ridesharing and carsharing, for instance, are now of interest to transport companies who are involved in providing these and other local public transport services.
The privately-owned car seems to lose more and more importance in this discussion; on the one hand because city streets and parking places are overcrowded and, on the other, because politicians, courts, environmental groups, and the medical profession are pushing to keep city air clean and to prohibit access to cars, particularly diesels.
There were widescale joint ventures, e.g. between Deutsche Bahn / Flinkster and Daimler, which have been abandoned because each party wants to attract customers to their own platform and is focused mainly on their own revenues. Deutsche Bahn has created a pioneer startup and its own platform for local traffic with their Ioki - input/output Künstliche Intelligenz (artificial intelligence). Additionally, shuttle buses are transporting customers on demand in Frankfurt. A special algorithm calculates the optimal route which the driver must follow. This field test is a preliminary stage to the large deployment in Hamburg in spring 2018, when initially 100 Deutsche Bahn shuttle buses and, later, 200 shuttle buses of the VW subsidiary Moia will be on the streets. This development will be expanded later to the whole of Europe and the USA. It’s anticipated that city traffic will thus be relieved by a reduction in individual vehicle usage. The OECD believes that 3,000 shuttle buses can replace about 97,000 private cars. Deutsche Bahn believes even more can be replaced. However, the question remains as to whether potential customers will follow these plans. Even the ADAC (German automobile club) is developing new business models, together with the Technical University of Munich, to transform mobility and to minimize private traffic.
On an international level, even more ambitious mobility concepts are on the way, e.g. Oslo and Helsinki want to ban all private cars from their cities. An example of this is the Finnish company Whim that wants to allow a combination of public transport, taxi and car rental within a monthly ticket (spring 2018). Deutsche Bahn is presently performing a field test in Bavarian Bad Birnbach with the autonomous Ioki shuttle (adding an accompanying driver because totally autonomously-driven cars are not yet allowed). At the moment, nobody is making money with these innovations even though 3-digit millions of Euros have already been invested. But it’s the early bird that can often catch the pioneer profits.
At the same time, Deutsche Bahn is working with 350 developers to create the sales platform called "Vendo" (Spanish: I sell). Deutsche Bahn’s subsequent aim will be to work in cooperation with Flinkster, Call-a-Bike, and the railways and, even later, to integrate Ioki. Other vendors will also be integrated if they wish to do so. Since it is still the case that every organisation wants to keep its data exclusively for itself, the likelihood of introducing such a wide-reaching platform seems virtually impossible at this stage. Already in 2013, Deutsche Bahn created an intermodal app (Qixxit) that happened to be inappropriate for their business strategy which favours long distance travel. Qixxit was subsequently transferred to an independent company.
There is some movement, though, in the field of Open Data. A different way of thinking has already taken place concerning the publication of data, according to Berthold Huber, CEO of Deutsche Bahn. We will be watching this development with a healthy sprinkling of skepticism.
See also "The battle heats up over local traffic"