Digital Locomotion
von Adeline Seidel | Apr 15, 2014

How can we change the mobility of our cities? How can we best discern the intrinsic logic of an urban infrastructure in order to offer meaningful mobility solutions? What upheavals are about to happen as regards mobility in cities – and how will these changes impact on urban space? “The mobility of the future is not an issue of ideologies. The German auto industry needs a concerted agenda with the cities and communes. The mobility revolution is the great opportunity of the 21st century!” declares Rupert Stadler, CEO of Audi AG, and sounds the starting gun for the third “Audi Urban Future Award” (AUFA). For one thing is certain: Cities now have little “scope” as regards combining living, working and free spaces with a transportation infrastructure (the capacity of which is frequently already over-utilized) in such a way that the quality of life there rises: “In other words, higher capacities need to be designed in order to use less space, meaning construing technologies not as a service for clients, but at the same time considering how in this way optimal spatial utilization concepts can be created,” is how Christian Gärtner, founder of Stylepark and curator of the Audi Urban Future Initiative, explains the goals of the competition.

Researching upheaval

If one thinks of the leap in efficiency in telecommunications over the last 40 years as triggered by digitalization, then it is quite conceivable that the steady rise in digitalization will also change urban mobility. That said, mobility is clearly far more complex than telecommunications, as here digital networks come up against physical structures. What developments are conceivable will be explored by four teams from Berlin, Boston, Mexico City and Seoul in the context of this year’s AUFA. Connectivity is the thematic foundation on which the competition takes place this year, under the heading of “The Next Leap in Mobility”.

The Internet of things, such as for “Car-to-X” communication, real-time data matches for efficient route planning, and piloted parking, these are all solutions that are already in place and being applied. They offer a great deal more potential for changes to cities and infrastructure. “What are the fields we need to study to identify where the potential for win-win situations are for users, cities and mobility providers? And where can we realize the mobility leap?” Christian Gärtner asked at the AUFA 2014 kick-off event in Berlin. “We must pinpoint interfaces between personal transport and local public transportation. And we must perhaps also revisit systems for personal transport and local public transportation.”

In order to answer these questions, this year it is not only architects and urban planners who are taking part in the competition, but also interdisciplinary teams consisting of data specialists, neuroscientists, ethnographers and experience designers. Through to October 2014, they will all investigate the interfaces between transportation and the city using actual current urban development projects.