SXSW - © Merrick Ales
SXSW-Selfie von Harald Neidhardt © Harald Neidhardt

New mobility concepts at South by Southwest

Discovering quirky Austin with Hamburg's Harald Neidhardt, an expert on new mobility

Rainey Street does not seem too far now that a nice lady in a superwoman costume has invited us to sit into her rickshaw and to drive us to our next meeting point in the evening breeze. These days, Austin has a whole range of mobility concepts and the analogous rickshaw is a real, original example…it’s almost as cool as the owl vehicle that appears to be a greeting from the legendary “Burning Man Festival”.

Eulen-Mobil auf der SXSW 2018
Owl vehicle at SXSW 2018 © Harald Neidhardt

From vision to electric intelligence

Google has the most interesting branding. The company’s taxi-like golf carts drive SXSW guests all over the city. The me Convention by Mercedes Benz in Palm Park is also worth a mention. Lectures, workshops and talks centering on #createthenew are being held in a former pool. Mercedes is also showing off new mobilty concepts like Vision Van, carsharing models for Car2Go and e-mobility solutions under the Electric Intelligence (EQ) brand in between bars, stages, deckchairs and climbing frames. A smart car in the lively Sixth Street, encased in a huge transparent bubble, wobbles around to show that electric mobility does not emit any toxic fumes.

RideAustin – open source service

In the run-up to SXSW, Lufthansa held a conference called FlyingLab on a flight from Frankfurt to Houston, Texas. The coolest discovery of 2018 has to be the RideAustin – an uber clone operated as an open source, which is both extremely fast and comfortable. The service is the same, but the driver pays only USD 1 per journey to use it. The service is great and you feel good and safe in the knowledge that this self-employed driver is earning the maximum profit.

Screenshot des Fahrdienstes RideAustin
Screenshot des Fahrdienstes RideAustin © Harald Neidhardt

“Keep it weird”

Cars in Palm Park are covered up and things calm down as lights flicker at parties – one of which is only just getting started in Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar. And when “Bohemian Rapsody” has ended, you don’t just drive yourself home and can instead opt for one of many mobility services in Austin.

Eventually, I literally “slide” with Shirley, the nice driver of the Blacklane S series along Austin’s jammed highways to the airport. The Berlin-based startup operates a portal for chauffeur services. The journey makes for a calm, relaxed contrast to quirky Austin, which has been abuzz for the past few days. The time is just right for me to head down the short route to the airport.

Keeping it weird is easy in Austin, obviously. (“Keep Austin weird“ is the city’s semi-official slogan. Coined in 2000 during a marketing campaign for small, local companies, it has long since established itself.)

Guest commentary by Harald Neidhardt, founder of MLove Future City Campus in HafenCity

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