Three US teams in competition: Web voting on the candidates for the Audi Urban Future Award 2014

The theme of the speed pitch is how far data can serve as a planning tool for urban mobility. “Key words like digitalization, networking, big data or smart grids are ever-present. But there are few research results and practical approaches that give a well-founded demonstration of how flows of data, urban development and mobility can be meaningfully connected. The Audi Urban Future projects are an innovation radar for us. They help us to understand the requirements for urban mobility and our customers’ wishes better, and to think through innovation for the urban context in particular”, says Professor Rupert Stadler.

The candidates in the speed pitch have widely differing interpretations of the data theme. Team 1 analyzes the question of which mobility services people want – and how they can be negotiated on a digital marketplace of the future. Team 2 puts its faith in research results from the field of gamification and would like to reveal previously hidden mobility needs through the human urge to play. Team 3’s thesis is that data can create precious space in combination with technologies for cities and their residents.

Team 1
New Online Marketplace for Mobility
Philip Parsons, independent planning consultant and founder of Sasaki Strategies, and Federico Parolotto, mobility expert and principal of Mobility in Chain

Parsons and Parolotto imagine a new digital mobility marketplace for cities, a system that harmoniously coordinates individual traffic with public transport. Users can freely and transparently choose the best means of transport – or a suitable combination – based on costs, their time budget, comfort, or sustainability. According to their idea, the result is new demand which spurs the providers of mobility to provide innovative and attractive services.

The prerequisites for a functioning new mobility market – apart from the digital world – are specific interventions in urban infrastructure. A place for changing between the bus, train, car and future will be created; seamless transitions make it attractive to change modes. This interface will be enhanced by cultural, educational and leisure offerings.

Team 2
The human love of play reveals mobility needs
Kevin Slavin, assistant professor and founder, Playful Systems group at MIT Media Lab and Eric Rodenbeck, founder and CEO, Stamen Design

Kevin Slavin and Eric Rodenbeck use sensors from smartphones, cars, urban infrastructure – wherever they can find them – to reveal patterns of movement and behavior. Their thesis is that humans are moved not by efficiency and optimization, but by desire and delight. In their years of work in urban scale play and visualization, they have designed new forms of software to interact with the hardware of the built environment. For the Audi challenge, they have chosen to focus on New York City, the American city with the fewest cars per resident, and the city that functions as a beacon for passion and creativity. Human mobility may have room to become more efficient; the focus here will be on how to make it feel as delightful as the city it takes place in.

Team 3
The flexible relationship between the city and mobility
Axel Kilian, computational designer and assistant professor at Princeton University; Ben Fry, founder and principal, Fathom Information Design; Saul Griffith, inventor and founder of Otherlab

The team proposes to use data modeling and technology as the starting point for changing mobility in urban spaces. How do cities benefit from, for example, piloted parking? Kilian, Fry and Griffith see its potential for urban mobility: parked cars no longer need so much space. Technology thus makes it possible to create new free spaces that can be used flexibly, for example for temporary pedestrian zones. Their approach expects a high added value for cities, because data can be employed to synchronize different means of transport and their use: cars and other participants in traffic understand each other, as if intuitively, like fish in a swarm. At the same time the team experiments with prototypes in order to test ideas quickly and take them further.

“Technology can bring about change and improve things but may also lead to the disappearance of what we know. For instance there may be no more bus stops in the future”, says Kilian. To put it another way, we do not take our smartphones to a telephone box when we want to make a call.

The winner of the speed pitch will be announced by Professor Rupert Stadler, chairman of the executive board of AUDI AG, as part of his keynote speech on the evening before the CES is opened. The winning team will compete with innovation teams from across the globe in the Audi Urban Future Award 2014. In October 2014 the Award will be presented for the best proposal. The prize money for the Award amounts to 100,000 euros.

In 2014 the third round of the Award gets underway. The competition, which is held every two years, started in 2010 with the general tasks of proposing visionary designs for urban mobility. The Award 2012 outlined mobility scenarios in five metropolitan regions across the world. The winners, the practice Höweler+Yoon Architects, analyzed mobility in Boston and produced the City Dossier Boston in collaboration with Audi. Fundamental findings from this Dossier will be presented in a futuristic, interactive exhibit at the CES. With the clear aim of making the Initiative more specific, the Award 2014 is concerned with feasibility studies for concrete challenges in existing urban development projects.