Thank you Dr. Wünning Tschol, and many thanks to the Falling Walls Foundation for inviting me to speak about a multidisciplinary, scientific approach to urban mobility.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
25 years after the famous Fall of the Berlin Wall, it is an honor for me to speak to you here in this city. In a city where one of the greatest breakthroughs in history happened. I remember that day very well because it made one thing very clear to me: When is it worth tearing down a wall? If what we expect to find behind this wall promises more freedom and more opportunities than what we have at present. Then nobody will stop people from tearing down walls.
Looking back: November 9 not only marked an opening of physical borders, but it gave way to the new era, the era of globalization. We as a German car manufacturer couldn’t have grown that much without this opening of mindsets in politics, society and economy. Take a look at Audi in the mid-nineties:
Back then, we sold 360.000 cars worldwide – half of them in Germany. This year, we will sell around 1.7 million cars – more than 85 percent in our global markets. However, there still remain walls to be torn down as will be the mission of the TTIP agreement between the EU and the US, for example. This is not just a matter of import duties. What is even more important to us: Tearing down walls also means eliminating other trade barriers such as missing or differing standards.
Just think of turn indicators – unbelievable but true: They are required to have a different color here than in the US. Missing standards make the transatlantic car trade unnecessarily complicated and expensive! And while on the one hand we are tearing down walls, on the other we see new and even greater barriers come into existence – especially in cities.
In the past 25 years we were dealing with globalization. For the next 25 years we need to add the challenge of urbanization. Already today, cities count for more than 50 percent of the world´s population. The challenge which is arising from this fact and that inspires me is easy to demonstrate: I imagine that about 90 percent of the people in this room live in a city. Most of you will probably have a car and all of you are probably really annoyed with driving in his or her city.
What you see from this example: The promise of freedom through mobility is very limited in cities. Let’s look at some facts: Car drivers in Los Angeles or here in Berlin on average lose one week per year stuck in traffic jams. For citizens of Sao Paulo, Mexico City or Beijing it’s even four times as much: They spend a whole month per year in traffic. At today’s conference you heard from a true expert, – Nate Lewis – how crucial it will be to cut down on CO2 emissions on a global scale. At the moment, mobility in cities
does not only mean that we lose a lot of time but we do also waste huge amounts offuel, money and carbon-dioxide.
So the wall for us to tear down is one between mobility and the city. This is why, in 2010, we started working with the megacities of the world in the Audi Urban Future Initiative. This is an open and multidisciplinary discourse among scientists, urban planners, architects, and mobility experts. Our mission: to decode the DNA of urban mobility. Or – in the words of one of the most prominent urban sociologists,
Saskia Sassen: “to urbanize mobility”. By the way, Saskia is one of the scientific experts who have worked with us in the Audi Urban Future Initiative from the very beginning. We’ve learned a lot from our work with various specialists and researchers across the globe. I want to share with you some of the insights from our exchange with cities. Mobility and cities are of the same nature. They are constantly changing shape and dynamics. And even if no two cities are alike, there are certain common patterns. We just have to analyze and understand these patterns. Because this will allow us to make predictions and find solutions on how to create cities that are more mobile, livable and sustainable.
Most importantly, we have already identified three fundamental breakthroughs. The three of them will guide us at Audi to the future of urban mobility. Here are our hypotheses: First of all, mobility transforms immobility. Innovation and new technologies in mobility, brings benefits not only for car drivers but also for urban development. Just think of the strong trend towards smart cities. With this knowledge, the task from now on will be to plan mobility innovations and city infrastructure together.
Secondly: In the future of urban space, reality and virtuality melt together. The cities of tomorrow will have to create interfaces to the virtual space. For us as at Audi that means: In a world driven by the Internet of Everything, the car will transform into a completely new multi-device. This device then combines mobility, access to information and social life.
Thirdly: Individuality and collectivity no longer contradict each other. The car is the foremost means of individual transport. It will continue closing gaps in the urban mobility system. Individual preferences can actually inform and improve collective systems. They can make individual urban traffic and public transportation more complementary in the end.
In this years’ Audi Urban Future Award multidisciplinary research teams have been testing these breakthroughs. They did so under the theme “Next Leap in Mobility”. The teams worked in four cities:
Berlin, Boston-Somerville, Mexico City and Seoul. Tomorrow we will announce the winner here in Berlin. The results are very promising – but for details let’s wait until tomorrow.
Let’s get back to the beginning. Tearing down the wall between mobility and the city. Let’s define: What is our role? What are our tools? Why is what we anticipate behind the wall better than what we have today? Our nature is innovation. And thus ‘Vorsprung’ in the city is defining our role and our ambition: to ensure freedom in individual mobility. We achieve this, on the one hand, of course, through our tools of new technologies. This is why we are investing in fundamental research more than ever. Especially in research for new drivetrain technologies to reduce CO2 emissions and in research for new software and IT to make cars more intelligent and networked. We are part of the Volkswagen Group with the world’s largest investment in R&D. As such I would truly like to thank all scientists and foundations like the Falling Walls for their constant strive for progress in these fields of research. New technologies will help to optimize the most important resources of cities, like clean air and free space. So: we have the drive, we have the tools and we have the entrepreneurial spirit to look behind the wall.
Because what we see behind it is a unique opportunity. An opportunity to create solutions for a sustainable urban development and freedom for our customers. Cars and cities together form new alliances. The most important prerequisite in this constellation is that cities begin to rethink their attitude towards efficient mobility. It’s not simply about strict regulations and restrictions. It’s about smart and flexible ways to improve mobility and quality of life for citizens holistically.
I am convinced: Intelligent car technologies will find their way into cities if city planners and investors understand the potential of intelligent mobility. And if they can in fact assess the dramatic benefits these technologies could provide. The future car will keep its natural place in the urban environment, if we can develop it to perfectly connect with the city.
Let me give you just a few striking examples: Take parking, for instance. I don’t have to tell you that space is a very scarce resource in cities. You won’t believe how much smaller parking garages can be, if we make use of piloted parking technology. Or think of infrastructure that connects with cars – traffic lights for example. This technology will allow for driving a true “green wave” causing less traffic jams and resulting in less emissions. Just imagine: In the future, an intelligent mobility algorithm will organize the entire traffic of a city based on origin-destination-data. Predictive systems like this will make all the difference. And finally, the new technology of piloted driving. It will change our lives, dramatically improving safety and allowing for a completely new user experience
Today, we are not too far away from that future: In a world premiere three weeks ago, we arranged for an Audi RS 7* to drive without a driver, without anyone in the car! On the Hockenheim racetrack, at more than 230 kilometers or 140 miles per hour. In this case engineering students from Stanford University worked together with our Electronics Research Lab in California. One of more than 30 examples for how we cooperate with the finest universities around the world for constantly being on top of cutting edge research.
But let me come back to my initial learning from 1989: In order to overcome a wall you have to really desire what is behind it. There are a few things that still prevent city administrations from making a real change in urban mobility: Often, it is lack of information, tools and knowledge, for example missing links between technological and spacial parameters that finally create currencies for informed investment decisions. For Audi, this is an issue we will address through a game-changing dialogue with cities worldwide. While others work in cities, we are working with the cities. Creating systems which have a real positive impact on urban populations is a task impossible to be done by one party only. The goal is to synchronize innovation cycles: While we develop cars for 2020, city planners shape urban life for 2030 today. Therefore we will initiate urban future partnerships in 2015. What we will bring to the table is:
Smart technologies – that will be our currency – we are convinced they can be of huge benefit.
What we expect from cities is: Smart partners in smart cities. We need cities that are curious about looking behind the wall together with us. Because we all are trying to strive for what ultimately counts: efficient mobility, sustainability and quality of life. We will need hybrid and multidisciplinary platforms for exchange between megacities, academia, and companies around the globe. With experts from both the private and public sector and from all scientific fields.
Let’s think out of the box and overcome system barriers. To tear down the wall that still separates us from a new type of urban and people oriented mobility. Let’s accept that future cities will combine both real and virtual environments – simultaneously. Let’s look at individualism and collectivity as interconnected in the urban space of the near future. Let’s look behind the wall together and carry our ideas into the world. At the end of the day, it is the desire of the people for change that propels us forward.
*Fuel consumption figures of the models named above
Audi RS 7 Sportback:
Combined fuel consumption in l/100 km: 9.5
Combined CO2 emissions in g/km: 221