Press release

Ingolstadt/Frankfurt, 2011-09-22

“The city talks back” – Audi Urban Future Summit reflects theses on the mobility of the future

  • Prominent group of experts establishes ten theses and positions about tomorrow’s mobility
  • The city and car of the future enter a symbiosis
  • Audi is open to discourse and takes an active part

At the start of the IAA International Motor Show in Frankfurt, 450 international experts accepted Audi’s invitation to discuss the future of cities at the first Audi Urban Future Summit. The positions and theses of a high-caliber group of experts outlined exciting perspectives for the mobility of the future.

The Audi Urban Future Summit, held at The Squaire in Frankfurt, brought renowned researchers and experts together, and one thing emerged with great clarity: There is no such thing as the megacity. A city like New York will develop in a completely different way from Frankfurt am Main, Mumbai or Mexico City in terms of its structure and mobility. Before solutions are possible, the city in question therefore has to be examined closely in order to start by defining the right questions. The answers then relate to local needs – and at the same time have the potential to produce solutions with global reach.

The key sentence of the economist and sociologist Saskia Sassen from Columbia University New York was a constant motif throughout the Summit: “The city talks back.“ On various levels urbanity conveys information to us that has to be analyzed in order to evolve approaches to solving problems. This proposition was supported in the speech by Carlo Ratti, engineer, architect and Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

In order to understand cities and their requirements in the future, the data that they make available to us must be evaluated in their entirety. Networks and databases play an important role in this, as do social cooperation and the subject of sharing. In future the car will be embedded in urban systems, in infrastructures, streams of digital data and social cooperation.

The following positions and theses emerged from the keynote speeches:

Saskia Sassen, Professor for Sociology at Columbia University New York:
“Urbanizing the car will require ‘seeing like a city’ – I try to see as a city. The city is a generous partner in this work: it is a lens onto larger realities.“

Richard Sennett, Chairman of the “LSE Cities” Research Centre, The London School of Economics, and Professor at New York University for the Humanities:
“Human beings develop mentally and emotionally by making sense of complexity for themselves (…). We need the experience of open systems in order to grow.“

Charles Leadbeater, author, consultant and expert for creativity and innovation:
“We find it very difficult to live with the systems we have. We need systems that support relationships and empathy (…). What we need is ‘systempathy’.”

Carlo Ratti, engineer, architect and Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
“Thanks to technologies our cities buildings and objects can talk back to us (…). The important thing with data is, that when you combine data the power grows exponentially.”

Ludger Hovestadt, architect, computer scientist and Professor at ETH Zurich:
“What we need to think of is an empowered planet of indexed intelligence. It is not primarily about resources, efficiencies and so on. The resources are now decoupled from energy and can circulate freely.“

Chris Anderson, Editor-in-chief of the US edition of the technology magazine “Wired”:
“’I drove my car to work.’ – Every single part of this sentence will be ridiculous to my children: ‘I drove’ – The idea that cars need to be driven will seem archaic to them. ‘My car“ – The notion of ownership is also one that is going to change. ‘To work’ – This implies the notion that you need to go to work, that there is a location where you work. And that is increasingly not the case; people work wherever.”

Alasdair Ross, Global Product Director and Director of Wire Services of the Economist Intelligence Unit, London:
“We discussed about the capture and transformation and use of energy. The car is simply the vehicle by which this transformation takes place.”

Jürgen Mayer H., architect and winner of the Audi Urban Future Award 2010, Jürgen Mayer H. Architects:
“The car turns from a driving machine into an experience vehicle.”

Alison Brooks, architect, Alison Brooks Architects:
“Car and vehicle sharing platforms can provide a strategy to increase access to private mobility, reduce pressure on urban land and transport infrastructure. Shared and networked private vehicles can supplement overstretched public transport systems particularly in the developing world’s megacities.”

Andreas Klok Pedersen, architect, partner and Design Director at BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group:
“The Driverless Car means: more efficient use of space, packing cars closer together; more efficient flows of traffic; the ultimate flexible form of mobility. More efficient traffic, and automated ‘smart’ parking takes the cars off the road faster and liberates the car owner (…). The next paradigm of transportation technology will generate more city-compatible cars rather than car-compatible cities.“

The Summit has provided an impetus to dialogue without preconceived results about mobility in urban spaces for living. The city as an open system has been given a voice by experts from different disciplines. Audi has opened up to this important dialogue and will continue consistently to contribute its know-how to the discussion. The Audi Urban Future Insight Team has the task of assessing the discourse and feeding it into the company.

Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management, AUDI AG, expressed his optimism at the Summit: “All of us here today are at the centre of the debate concerning mobility in the cities of the future. We have the means to change something. We have the conviction. We have the know-how. We all want to be ready for the future. We want to share our knowledge, to network and to record.” Stadler continued: “We need an open, respectful and authentic dialogue when future mobility is the issue! What role will the car play in the future?”

Peter Schwarzenbauer, Member of the Board of Management of AUDI AG Marketing and Sales, summed up at the conclusion of the event: “No-one can solve alone the challenges of urban mobility tomorrow. We can only succeed if we get all the involved parties together round a single table: urban planners, energy utilities, providers of mobility, politicians – and of course the people who tell us how they want to live in the city of the future.“

For information about the Audi Urban Future Initiative and the Summit 2011, please refer to

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