The cities of this world will change. Space, time, air – resources are becoming scarce. How can we create a good quality of life in the cities of the future, and in what ways will people be mobile?

Yesterday, at the first Audi Urban Future Summit in Frankfurt am Main, the experts were in agreement: dialogue and cooperation are the key to a better future. Specialists from a great variety of disciplines discussed the future of urban mobility in The Squaire at Frankfurt Airport.

The debate directly before the 64th International Motor Show IAA centred on two main theses: First that the complexity of cities will increase exponentially. Second, that representatives of government, private enterprise and society will have to work together to find solutions for urban mobility.

After a message of welcome by Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Executive Board of AUDI AG, renowned speakers such as the sociologist and economist Saskia Sassen, the sociologist Richard Sennett and the author and trend researcher Charles Leadbeater held keynote speeches about the development of cities, their inhabitants and technologies. The central theme of the Summit, Energies that Shape Cities, was explored in three 90-minute workshops that focused on Data Networks, Social Cooperation and Resource Management.

“We are working all the time on cars that will be driving on the roads only in three or four years’ time, often even later. You will see this at the IAA. It is therefore all the more important to have a specific view of the future – the urban future,” said Stadler. “To hold a discussion at the Summit with such high-calibre personalities from a wide range of disciplines gives us orientation. At the same time we allow architects and researchers to take a look at the future of Audi,” explained the Audi boss, emphasizing: “Only together can we meet the challenges and shape growing cities for a good quality of life.”

The Summit revolved around the theme of energies – which refers not to electric power, but rather to the forces that shape cities. Three of these energies were the centre of attention and the focus of three workshops: Energies of Data, Energies of Social Relations and Energies of Resources. The basis for the discussions were the proposals of the architects who participated in the Audi Urban Future Award 2010.

Award-winner J. Mayer H. took a close look at the exchange of data between people, cars and architecture (Data). Alison Brooks’ theme was social networks, new forms of neighbourly cooperation (Social Relations). And the Bjarke Ingels Group outlined an urban future in which cars and buildings will share the same flexible energy stores (Resources). In the workshops these main propositions were examined from different angles, discussed with passion and – as was hoped – taken forward in terms of content:

Energies of Data
The car will be an urban interface in the future. This is entirely in line with the visions of architect Jürgen Mayer H.: Cars should be driven autonomously and be continuously connected via Internet and social media with the environment – in this case, the city. But what does it mean for the driver to hand over the wheel to a digital system? And who will control such systems in the future? To what extent are people willing to submit to a permanent state of being online?

Energies of Social Relations
The discussion heated up with the example of Mexico City. Already today, there is one square meter of parking space for every two square meters of living space – and cities in South America and Asia continue to grow uncontrollably. There is a dire need for public transport services to be expanded there and for basic mobility services to be ensured. Only then can individual mobility be responsibly integrated into an overall system.

Energies of Resources
In this workshop it quickly became evident that there should be an individual solution for life and mobility in every city, depending on the local political or economic situation. To this end, it is necessary to create an environment in which all road users can coexist. Workshop participants were quite optimistic about the future of cities. For example, when cars are driving autonomously, parking lots will no longer be necessary and traffic jams will be a thing of the past. Resources such as space and time will be freed up. As an automobile manufacturer, Audi can contribute to realising the vision of swarm intelligent vehicles with technical know-how and cooperative ventures.

Entirely in the spirit of the cooperation theme, the answers to these questions will continue to be discussed in the context of the initiative. In this context, the Audi Urban Future Insight Team ensures a continual exchange between Audi and the external experts. Six employees from the fields of Communication, Design Strategy, Product Strategy, Brand Strategy and Corporate Strategy analyse the architects’ proposals, the results of workshops and discussions, and the knowledge gained from research. The team conveys the most important ideas directly into the company – and the seeds of these thoughts fall on fertile ground: Because engineers in the Technical Development department are already at work on the future of individual mobility, and on models and technologies with a time horizon that is often longer than three or four years.

Audi is open for an honest and creative exchange of ideas. The Insight Team allows architects and researchers in workshops to gain insights into strategic processes and into Audi’s Technical Development. In this way external stakeholders understand the whole picture and can take account of this know-how in the process of posing further questions, doing research, and envisioning the future.

Now that all the elements of the Audi Urban Future Initiative – the Award (in 2010 for the first time), the Summit and the Insight Team – are in place, the Initiative is being extended by means of a further important component: Audi Urban Future Research. Research projects and co operations with universities will make a contribution to better anticipating the future of cities – and especially mobility in megacities. In his welcoming speech Rupert Stadler announced the first cooperation of this kind: Audi is supporting the research project Urbanizing Technology: The Mobility Complex, headed by Saskia Sassen, Professor of Sociology at Columbia University in New York.

Furthermore, Peter Schwarzenbauer, Member of the Board for Marketing and Sales at AUDI AG, announced a further undertaking in his concluding speech: Audi of America will initiate together with Columbia University the research project Experiments in Motion. Under the direction of Mark Wigley, Dean of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, a number of different faculties and also students will work out future scenarios for New York City. In later stages their ideas and results will be transferred to other international metropolises and their feasibility will be examined.

To take a look beyond the car industry, to create networks of knowledge – Audi has grasped this opportunity. In the coming months there will be a lot of work for the Insight Team, as the Audi Urban Future Summit 2011 has achieved its aim: The discussion about mobility in the future was inspiring and fruitful. And in a dialogue it quickly becomes clear how important it is to get experts from a variety of disciplines involved in the discussion on mobility in the megacities of the future.

The results of the debate at the Summit in Frankfurt will now serve to prepare the second Audi Urban Future Award next year. The new ideas and proposals of the architects in 2012 will flow in turn into the Audi Urban Future Summit 2013 – and at the same time into selected research projects.