Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, with the polls in progress, it is the perfect time to talk about changes and chances. About the future. About mobility in the digital age. The first question is: Do we need individual mobility as we know it at all in this digital age? Look at why people move from one place to another.
- To go shopping? You virtual department store is just one click away, it offers so much more variety, and you don’t even have to queue up to pay.
- Get in the car to go play tennis? On your wii the road to Wimbledon is so much shorter.
- To go to a business meeting? Just arrange a video conference.
More and more transactions are taking place in the virtual space. People even search for their soul mate online! So: Is the car an endangered species – as some people say? Obviously, this question is rather rhetorical. After all, I wouldn’t be here, if I really thought so.
In fact, it is exactly the other way round. Demand for individual mobility is constantly rising. And it is doing so very quickly. Today there are one billion cars on our planet. Experts expect this number to rise to somewhere between two and three billion cars by 2050.
Growth of wealth and income triggers car sales, for instance. Owning a car provides comfort, independence and status. That won’t change in the future. There will be even more people craving for a piece of the cake. Another factor is demography. It is the senior citizens that predictably spend more on their lifestyle, more on individual mobility. It is amazing what we get to see from this generation. Do you know the saying: Age is just a number? Well, it is more than just a saying. Right here in England, for example, seniors learn “parkour”. Have you heard of that? Parkour is a sport that usually attracts daredevil youths – at least, it is preferred by extremely agile people. They move freely through any terrain, using urban environments such as benches, buildings and walls as a type of obstacle course. I read that the oldest guy in the London parkour class is 85. That’s what I call attitude! And this kind of attitude is what makes them appreciate individual mobility even more. After all, there is an increasing demand for individual mobility. And think of young people in the United States. Many of them don’t even need a destination to start their car. They simply go on a cruise. So the really important question is: What role will the car play in the age of bits and bytes? I am convinced: The car will be way more than a piece in the puzzle. It will be the next big driver of our digital world. After all, we share the same domain: mobility. The mobility of people, on the one hand and the mobility of data and information, on the other.
There is huge potential in connecting the two of them: in economic terms, in ecological terms or simply providing more quality of life. Looking back, the mobility of information and the mobility of people were one and the same for a very long time. Here is an example from around 500 B.C.: During the Persian wars in Greece Greek troops fended off an attack about 40 kilometers outside of Athens. They succeeded and sent a messenger to Athens to share the good news. When he had delivered the message the poor guy broke down – completely exhausted from a run without any stops. How much easier it would have been if he’d had a car. But then again: The Olympic Games would lack their greatest race: the marathon. My point is: In the past, information travelled as fast as the person who carried it. Therefore: When we moved faster, so did information. But eventually information was detached from a human carrier. At first through smoke signals or carrier pigeons – nowadays through smartphones and Internet. Today, our Greek friend would simply send a WhatsApp-message. Let’s re-attach the mobility of information and people. But this time, it won’t be us humans who speed up information, it will be exactly the other way round. We will use the speed of data, to save more of our valuable time.
With that in mind, I am convinced: Individual mobility offers the most promising use cases for upcoming innovations in the connected world. Let me give you a few examples. Think of traffic lights. Nobody likes the feeling of waiting at a red light. And when it finally turns green, it is often only a very short relief. Then you are stuck again – at the next red light. We have developed a service that connects the car with the central traffic management system in a city. This way, the car knows when the light turns red or green. It calculates the perfect speed and timing for you to stay in free flow. This saves your time. And avoiding the stop-and-go at red lights helps you save fuel, too. This service could reduce fuel consumption by 15 percent. A next step could be to turn this communication into a two-waystreet. If all cars talked back to the traffic lights, they could adjust their phasing according to the current flow and volume of traffic. As a result, we would have to stop even less often.
Here’s another example. One third of inner-city traffic is caused by cars searching for parking spaces. In this way, people worldwide lose an average of 20 minutes a day. What if we had a central parking system that was connected with all the parking lots in a city. It could easily coordinate all parking requests. You would inform the system about your destination and automatically have the nearest parking space available reserved. When you arrive, your car can drive itself to the parking spot, while you have more time for shopping. It uses its onboard sensors, cameras and software, while the central computer of the parking garage tells it which way to go. When you are ready to go home, just press a button on your smartphone and your car picks you up again in front of the car park. We have already developed this technology of piloted parking. After various technical tests in existing car parks, we are currently developing a use case. We are doing this together with Somerville, close to Boston, Massachusetts.
By the way: Piloted parking has another advantage. Parking garages can be built a lot smaller when we don’t need any space for getting out of the car and back into it. This way, we can build a parking garage that is smaller than today and at the same time has room for more cars. This is a bit like watching “Dr. Who” on the BBC: “It’s bigger on the inside.” It’s just that we need neither Time Lord technology nor science fiction. That’s good news for everyone who wishes we could increase space on earth. People in San Francisco, for example. In 2010, their city counted its public parking spaces: More than 440,000 of them. If they were all lined up, they would cover the US coast from Canada to Mexico. I am sure not only people in California welcome our new efficiency formula for the use of time and space.
Services like this show the potential of self-driving cars. Our first step in bringing this technology to the streets will be to introduce piloted driving in traffic jams. The all-new Audi A8 will be our first model to use this technology. If you wish, it takes over steering, accelerating and braking in dense traffic as long as you are not going faster than 40 mph. Istanbul is the number one rush hour capital of the world. There, an average driver loses 125 hours a year driving home from the office. Imagine what he could get done, if he spent that time in the office. So why not turn your car into your mobile office for the time you are stuck in traffic. While the car takes care of the congested road by itself you can take care of your current project, write emails or make phone calls. Or use the time for the most important people in your life – your friends and family. State-of-the-Art infotainment on board allows you to check your mail and social media channels, to search for a restaurant for dinner and reserve a table and even to video-chat with your kids at home. Through high-speed LTE, you can connect to the outside world from the driver’s seat. And this works the other way round as well: Imagine planning a weekend trip with your friends. Sitting on your couch, you google your destination on your tablet computer. With just one gesture, you sent the GPS data to your car. And when you start your trip, the navigation system is automatically synchronized and ready to go. We have many other services like this. Our name for them is Audi connect.
But let’s talk some more about piloted driving. This technology truly has the power to revolutionize individual mobility. And as I said: Using it in traffic jams is only the first step. We have already done pioneering work in other fields. In January, our piloted Audi A7 – we call it “Jack” – drove journalists from all over the world more than 900 kilometers across the USA. They travelled from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas. On public roads – in regular traffic. All the participants agreed: At first, they felt a bit insecure about giving up control. But then they were impressed with how reliably and maturely Jack managed the task. In fact, piloted driving will help to make driving a lot safer. More than 90 percent of all accidents are caused by human mistakes. Sensors and software can dramatically reduce risk on the road. Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that we will be able to avoid accidents totally. But in critical situations a digital driver will act earlier, faster and more precise than any human being could ever do. Unless, of course, we learn to go without sleep , to stay focused no matter what and to look ahead and back at the same time.
Recently, we had another test on the autobahn in Germany. Our piloted car was in the middle of overtaking another car when it detected a vehicle approaching at high speed from behind. Our car immediately stopped overtaking and got back in the lane. Now maybe you think: What’s the big deal? It’s just what you would have done, isn’t it. But this is exactly what makes the whole thing so remarkable: The car revised its decision – it acts intelligently. The digital driver of the future will not only be intelligent but also capable of learning. Using cloud-computing, cars will share the data collected while driving with an IT backend. There, the data will be processed and analyzed, and the results will be sent back to the car. This way, it gains more and more experience and learns to cope better even with very complex situations.
Now, let’s think one step further. What if the car shared its knowledge with others? It could warn them when the road is slippery. It could give them a “heads up” when the police have installed a speed-trap – okay, forget that. I don’t think it’s legal. But what is both, useful and allowed: The car could share information about traffic volumes, traffic speeds and traffic jams. If we use swarm intelligence to organize traffic, it will make driving safer and more convenient, and it will get us from A to B faster. Scientists have found out: Road capacity would be four times as high if only ten percent of all cars shared their position and speed and we used this data for automated driving.
And now: Imagine a mobility system where not only cars share their movement data, but where all travelers disclose their route and destination. Where parking lots indicate how many spaces are free and where infrastructure informs us about road works and other hazards. Like this we could time our trip perfectly, we could easily switch between different modes of transport and we could harmonize the overall flow of traffic. Obviously, this holistic approach can only work, if all stakeholders of such a mobility system work together. A few years ago, we started an interdisciplinary think tank we call Audi Urban Future Initiative. We connected with city planners, architects, politicians and trend scouts. What we all have in common: readiness to challenge the established, creativity to think out of the box and courage to make our ideas come true. Currently, we are working with an interdisciplinary team on an operating system for the city of the future.
Our playground is Mexico City – the most daunting metropolis for commuters. In 1904, trams moved through the city at 6 mph. Today, during the rush hour, cars proceed at less than 4 mph. More than a century of technological progress and traffic has actually slowed down? This sounds like a nightmare for someone who believes in “Vorsprung durch Technik”. I know we can do better! We don’t want cars to be seen as a problem. We want them to be an essential part of the solution. Our concept is based on the voluntary exchange of user data from public and private transport. I can think of quite a few innovative solutions this could lead to: new and early incentives for alternative routes, for example. And maybe some time soon, drivers will be warned of a traffic jam before it even exists. In the short term, this will allow us to control traffic flows better in terms of time and place. In the long term, when we learn more about traffic and its patterns we can use this knowledge even to improve infrastructure.
Here’s an interesting fact about our cities: Only an estimated 25 percent of the infrastructure that will be in place in 2050 already exists today. This means: Now is the critical time to set the course. Now is the time to decide whether future cities will be places of mobility, independence and interaction or places of standstill and wasted time. Because ironically, more than anything else, immovables shape urban mobility. Many policy makers are very aware of this challenge. London, for example, has started a smart urban plan.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The digital age is about innovative technology. But even more, it’s about communication. About bringing different stakeholders together. And about finding solutions that lead to mutual benefits. And if you ask me why the car will play a pivotal role, then my answer is: Because already today, it is the most sophisticated product most people ever buy and own in their lives. And I believe that it can benefit from our connected world in more ways than anything else: communicating with the Internet, with its driver and passengers, with buildings and with other cars.The car is the ultimate mobile device. And this is how it will drive the digital age.