The future of megacities
The world is changing at a rapid pace, and populations are growing more quickly. By 2030, it is anticipated that 60 percent of the population will live in megacities with over eight million inhabitants. Audi launched the Audi Urban Future Initiative in 2010 to discuss the issues resulting from this development and to find new solutions.
Building bridges – that is the goal of the Audi Urban Future Initiative. The initiative is an interdisciplinary forum that networks creative thinkers – architects, sociologists, urban planners, trend researchers and start-ups – with one another around the globe. It brings together specialists from various disciplines, cultures and perspectives. Their joint discussions target an analysis of the challenges of tomorrow’s mobility in the megacities of the world and seek to find possible solutions.
Besides covering technical aspects, the findings and ideas resulting from this process also incorporate social, environmental and aesthetic aspects. The goal is to merge actual local conditions and possibilities for a sustainable mobile future. The range of issues is as diverse as the megacities themselves. In some cities what is needed is flexible, spontaneous use of public space, while in others the focus is on seamless mobility that combines different modes of transportation.
Outstanding visions of the future also have their place in the Audi Urban Future Initiative – like the concept of the city as a constant flow of motion with traffic that never comes to rest. Another topic is intelligent communication between car and city. Audi is already developing technologies for such scenarios – solutions for piloted driving as well as car-to-X communication under the heading of Audi connect. Last but not least, the initiative focuses on the intelligent networking of urban spaces, mobility and their users.
An important component of the Audi Urban Future Initiative is the award that Audi created in 2010. With a prize of 100,000 euros, the Audi Urban Future Award is the world’s most lucrative competition for innovative mobility solutions. Audi presented the award for the third time in November 2014. Under the motto “the next leap in mobility”, four interdisciplinary teams from Berlin, Boston, Mexico City and Seoul competed for the award with their innovative ideas for the mobility of tomorrow. Audi is drawing on the research findings of the Audi Urban Future Award 2014 to shape urban mobility of the future.
An international jury chaired by Prof. John Urry, Director of the Centre for Mobilities Research at Lancaster University, selected the Mexico City team and its concept “Operating system for urban mobility” as the winner. Its central idea is a data platform with which cities can manage their traffic planning according to needs and drivers can flexibly adapt their behaviour to the current situation. The winning team of the Audi Urban Future Award 2014 puts its faith in encouraging self-help and turns commuters into data donors. At the same time it tests new forms of cooperation between companies, mobility providers and municipal institutions – in addition to Audi, many companies and organisations cooperated. An initial version of the new data platform has been online since September 2014. Commuters can share data on their own movements with other users through a website and an app. In this way a valid database for sustainable urban and traffic planning is gradually created. As soon as enough real-time data for precise forecasts are available, people can adapt their behaviour to the forecasts and thus influence the traffic themselves – by departing later or by choosing the mode of transportation that gets them to their destination most quickly.
Having started out as a process with an uncertain outcome, the results of the award will flow into an "urban agenda" for the urban mobility of the future. Audi is pressing ahead by forming development partnerships (“Urban Future Partnerships”) with major cities and municipalities worldwide with the aim of implementing sustainable mobility solutions. On the basis of specific construction and traffic projects, the company investigates and promotes the networking of automotive technologies with local development partners.
On the East Coast of the United States, Audi and the city of Somerville are jointly trialling innovations for the city of the future. Audi and representatives of Somerville are working on a mobility concept for the popular neighbourhood around Union Square. Cars there are to be supplied with information about traffic light phases to improve traffic flow. In a second project in the Assembly Row district, Audi is studying how piloted parking and intelligent car fleets can enrich the lives of the people who live there. Audi has teamed up with the city authorities as well as a private partner for this venture.