Astronauts and robotics developers, futurologists and engineers, city planners and entrepreneurs: these are just some of the experts who joined the Audi MQ! Innovation Summit to discuss the numerous aspects of future mobility.
Ever since he was a child, Ron Garan dreamed of outer space. As an adult, he achieved his dream and became an astronaut, going as far as working on the International Space Station in 2008. His life demonstrates that dreams, even the biggest ones, can come true. “When I returned to Earth, as I looked out the window of my spaceship, I saw three things that I will never forget: a sharp-edged stone, a yellow flower, and some grass. Three insignificant things which were nonetheless so meaningful to me that I felt right at home, even if I was in Kazakhstan, not in Texas with my family”, Garan said. “Since then I changed my narrow definition of home and homeland, and now, to break the old pattern and grow up, I use a method which this experience taught me: getting away from the familiar to see the broader context, then checking each puzzle piece to see which one no longer fits”.
Never stop questioning, doubting, or testing the status quo. This is the motto that connects Garan’s experiences and the Audi MQ! Innovation Summit, an open platform for those who want to view the world from every angle. There is room here to think big, to be inventive, and to see possibilities in the future challenges. “We need to stop doing things just because we are used to doing them”, emphasizes Audi interim-CEO Bram Schot. “When people believe in something innovative, they need to hold on it tightly and be courageous!” With that in mind, the MQ! Innovation Summit focuses on the essential question of how to define the vision of future mobility.
Astronaut Ron Garan (left) and the acting Audi CEO Bram Schot.
Efficiency and sustainability
The participants discussed sustainable energy, electric mobility and fuel cells, the future of autonomous driving, artificial intelligence, and the traffic planning of the future. They are complex, multi-faceted topics, on which many prominent pioneers, mavericks and visionaries shared their ideas. A crucial point was urban demographic growth: every day, nearly 180,000 people move into big cities worldwide, creating the need for greater sustainability and efficiency. One solution could be networking, as computer scientist and data analyst researcher Larissa Suzuki explained. In the scenario of a smart city, there will be a network of cars, traffic lights and road users that would seamlessly communicate, interact and exchange data in real time with each other, making mobility accessible to all.
The limits of artificial intelligence
“A city is not a smart city if it only serves part of the population”, Suzuki explains. How can a city meet the needs of the elderly, the blind, or those who are in a wheelchair? Today, for instance, there are already solutions such as apps that can help the blind to move through a city. However, in order to create new opportunities for mobility, many processes have to be automated – to the point that machines can manage themselves, communicating with each other. Nevertheless, the artificial generation of knowledge has its limits: “We will never be able to understand people’s intentions”, Suzuki explains. Some decisions just simply have to be made by a human being’s inner system, a highly complex process that is based on individual perceptions and values: our conscience. “This is not something we can dictate to a machine”.
By contrast, science fiction author Cory Doctorow believes that autonomous cars will play a central role in making traffic safer. However, this safety must go hand in hand with a high level of transparency. “At the moment we have reached a point at which we are not even able to understand car manufacturers’ configurations inside an autonomous car – this frightens me”.
The relationship between humans and machines in automated and autonomous driving was one of the key topics of the MQ! Summit. The ethical aspect has been at the top of Audi’s list of priorities for many years. For this reason, the company has developed an interdisciplinary network of experts to investigate so-called dilemma situations, i.e. situations in which an accident is unavoidable and an autonomous car has to make a rapid choice: swerve to the left and hit a child, or swerve to the right and hit an elderly person, for instance.
“It is highly unlikely that such a dilemma situation will occur in this way, but automobile manufacturers need guidelines”, says Miklos Kiss, Head of Pre-Development of Automated Driving at Audi. “There are also other situations to be considered: for instance, what if there is a garden fence where one doesn’t know what lies behind? Can the autonomous car head towards it?”
Source: AUDI Blog