News31. October - By Erdal Ak

In the Daimler F.L.O.W.

 Erdal Ak is a member of the Communications team at Lab1886, the “company builder” of Daimler AG. He doesn’t like to provide thumbnail biographies.It’s 7:30 a.m. in the early fall, and the weather is lovely — cold and wet. It’s a great day to be alive. I’m practicing my most charming smile as I sit in the streetcar on my way to the office. The streets are bustling with activity. Streetcars are rattling along their tracks, cars are driving by, and a few bike riders and pedestrians wearing capes are defying the rain. And I’m in the midst of it all.

Road transportation in cities can sometimes be grueling. On the other hand, it also has a positive side because it’s so varied — at least if you’re not in a hurry, if hacking and sneezing fellow passengers are not putting you at risk of infection, and if you’re not getting annoyed by other road users’ behavior.

Surprisingly, I’m surrounded by many latently stressed commuters, all of whom want the same thing: a smooth flow of traffic. All of them want to get from A to B as quickly and comfortably as possible. And ideally they’d like their trips to be as environmentally friendly as possible too.

As my streetcar accelerates, I look out the window, see this morning’s commuters standing in traffic jams on multilane streets, and once again wonder whether things have to be this way. What could be done to make traffic flow more smoothly and simply help people reach their destinations faster? I’m an environment-conscious person who works at Daimler AG, and I like city living. But I often ask myself whether a city with this kind of traffic still offers me a satisfactory quality of life.

On days when there’s a particulates alarm, employees can use local public transportation free of charge

One year later, I’m sitting in a streetcar once again, traveling the same route and experiencing the same level of congestion. However, this time something is pleasantly different. You could say, in more ways than one, that I’m in the F.L.O.W. . You might be wondering why I, a thrifty Swabian, find this so positive. It’s obvious: because I’m traveling free of charge. I’m using a digital ticket that my employer is paying for during one of Stuttgart’s particulates alarm days.

On the days between October and April when there’s a high level of air pollution and a particulates alarm is declared in the Stuttgart metropolitan area, Daimler pays the costs of its employees’ commuting and business trips within the local public transportation network, SSB. That may sound like a marginal service, but it isn’t, because it benefits around 80,000 employees in all throughout the region. So it’s no wonder that people appreciate it.

How does F.L.O.W. work? The tickets are booked on a smartphone via a mobility app. The employees use a special link to register for this service. The registered employees can then book free regional public transportation (VVS) tickets on an SSB app. The system charges the fares to Daimler, which then pays for them.

Daimler takes on responsibility through F.L.O.W.

This project is a component of the Daimler initiative F.L.O.W., which combines various traffic-reduction measures and thus relieves pressure on the environment (see the following info box). There may be many aspects to Daimler’s motivation to evolve from a pure automaker into a mobility services supplier, but when an entrepreneurial mindset, a sense of social responsibility, and a focus on customer utility all come together then “isch des halt a ronde Sach…” (you’ve got the whole deal).

F.L.O.W. is not just a play on words. It’s also an acronym that stands for the German phrase “Fortbewegung, Lebensweise, Ökologie und Wirtschaft” (mobility, lifestyle, ecology, and economy). That’s what it’s all about: operating sustainably and doing something for densely populated metropolitan regions, Daimler’s own workforce, and the environment.

Reducing traffic and conserving the environment

However, for most people, comfort and saving time and money are more important than conserving the environment. That’s why, here as elsewhere, it’s all in the mix. F.L.O.W. combines technical mobility concepts and human resources measures into a colorful bouquet of mobility solutions. To each his own. After all, our aim is to reach as many people as possible. We don’t want to simply offer token solutions. We’re offering carsharing through car2go, a pilot project called the “flex location app” to reserve a workspace close to your home, and ridesharing via ride networks. It all goes to show that there’s more than one way to reach your goal. Additional measures are in the pipeline.

Small steps toward a shared mobility (r)evolution

Daimler is the biggest employer in the region, but one thing is clear — the more people participate, the more effective movements and initiatives become. According to the press release, this initiative is not intended to be limited to Daimler or the Stuttgart metropolitan region. Ideally, other companies, cities, and municipalities will also join F.L.O.W. They’ll be moving in small steps toward a social mobility (r)evolution.

One goal, many ways

F.L.O.W is combining the following initiatives:

  • Mobility concepts: moovel, car2go, on-demand shuttle, ridesharing, e-bikes, etc.
  • New Work options: home office/mobile work, FlexLocation

Of course the the objective is getting more companies to join.

Innovative initiative, innovative origin

Incidentally, the idea behind F.L.O.W. originated in the Innovation department of Daimler AG, Lab1886. It was the logical conclusion of a series of considerations by committed enthusiasts working in numerous future-oriented units of a Group that is wholly devoted to the topic of designing modern mobility. Lab1886 is “the” Daimler Group’s innovation laboratory. Have I already mentioned that I work there?

We look for promising ideas from all over the Group, assess them, and cooperate with our customers to develop them as quickly as possible into market-ready business models, using cutting-edge startup methods. In business management jargon, that’s called “co-creation.” F.L.O.W. is a great example of that, because innovation becomes effective only through cooperation with the customer! 

By now I’ve arrived at “my” streetcar stop. I’m so deeply immersed in my thoughts about F.L.O.W. that I almost forget to get out. Incidentally, my favorite way to conserve the environment is a different one: mobile working. I really love to work in my home office now and then — but oddly enough, only when my girlfriend is not at home.