This special round moderated by Heinrich Wefing, editor of the political section of the Hamburg-based weekly newspaper Die Zeit, discussing the future of cities and mobility under the descriptive title “mobile metropolis”.
At this round the ideas of the automobile, city and mobility future were discussed by Mark Wigley, professor of architecture of Columbia University in New York, and head of the research project experiments in motion; Franciscus van Meel, head of Electronic Stability Program at Audi; Jürgen Mayer H., a Berlin-based architect, winner of the first ever Audi Urban Future Award in 2010; Christian Gärtner, Founder and CEO of the Frankfurt Design Platform Stylepark, and curator of the Audi Urban Future initiative.
Wefing right at the beginning quoted Charles Leadbeater, a London philosopher and author, who said at the first Audio Urban Future Summit in Frankfurt in September that in a couple of years our kids won’t understand the simple English sentence “I drive my car to work.” According to Wefing this sentence will turn out to be wrong in so many ways.
It will be the computer or the cloud who will drive; it won’t be our cars anymore (“new models of ownership like renting, sharing, leasing”); and we won’t drive to work anymore as there won’t be a separation between workspace and home.
Wefing: “Will the car simply become a smartphone on wheels”?
Van Meel: “The need for mobility will also be there in the future, for the next 20 years but the way we will move in the city will change (…) Right now it’s that the cities are influencing the way we use transportation (…) The number of people lving in the mega-cities will increase and so there will be new models of mobility as the traffic will increase (…) This can only be done by connected vehicles to create a traffic flow (…) So, the cars will still be there, but the concept of mobility will change, as there will be automated or piloted driving (…) It will be nice to give over to the car. You will be in the driver’s seat but the car will be autonomous, so that you can work while driving.”
Wefing: “How will the architecture change?”
Mayer: “In the past years we changed the way we live, also our family structures changed, which also has an effect on ownership and car use. You share your car and for instance you won’t need the parking space in the the streets anymore - so the car will be giving back to the public. Buildings can open up (…) Also social media is combined with the car - the car is becoming a social interface as it is programmed for your needs, which then again changes the perception of the cities.”
Wefing: “Do we need to rethink our concept of infrastructure?”
Wigley: “Yes. The structure that makes structures possible, the structure behind structure. Infrastructure today is about microtechnology. In fact, we have really no idea of what cities and cars are anymore. I think we do know more about life on Mars than we do know about life on Earth; the city is the biggest experiment in human history - we don’t know if cities can accommodate 9 billion people. So, the city is a vehicle, it’s a network system. We go back to the notion of mobility and rethink it as it’s about the space of the car and the city. For the past hundred years cities have obeyed the car, for the next years it will be the other way around. The word automobile, the mobility of the self has been transformed by digital culture (…) For many people they are only as important as their car (..) So the issue is that we are using the language of the 1950s - we don’t have the language to describe our future.”
Gärtner: “My role is to build an interface between these different concepts, technicians, architects, thinkers - to make a language possible and an understanding between them. Audi knows how innovations drives change, but the company has to get social - socialize with people they haven’t been working before. My role is to bring people to respect each other.”
Wefing: “Do the politicians in Europe understand e-mobility?”
Van Meel: “In Germany they founded the platform electromobility in 2010, which is interactive - and Audi plays an important role. But we can’t go to the politicians and ask them to solve a problem that we can’t solve here on the spot. Most important is to find a common language. Also in Brussels they work on electro-mobility and mobility in general.”
“Do we have to think about mass-transportation in mega-cities with 40 or 50 million inhabitants?”
Wigley: “There is no such thing as individual mobility. You can only be an individual in a group. I also think it’s a digital revolution, it’s an evolution (…) The question is how you become a DJ of mobility.”
Gärtner: “It will be different in New York and Munich.”
Mayer: “The mobility of the inside will be connected with the greater outside mobility.”
Van Meel: “Talking about mass transportation reminds me of Charly Chaplin’s movie ‘Modern Times’, so I think people will also in the future fight for their mobility. There will be different types of mobility - like premium mobility, inter-mobility and so on - the question is just how they will be connected that it all works out (…) Premium means seamless, fast mobility, so I get from A to B without a hassle.”
Van Meel. “We think about inter-mobility, which means that you have hubs where you leave your car, so the core of the city will be taken over by other means of transportation. So one can imagine a two-seater which you can use in the inner city circle, light weighted and with the possibility of piloted driving.”