The driving experience of the future, a blend of real and virtual

[From The Hindu]

Berlin, March 30, 2011

The driving experience of the future, a blend of real and virtual

In the world envisioned by conceptual architect Juergen Mayer H, driving a car is a blend of digital, virtual and conventional reality.

Imagine the year is 2030 and you are driving through a virtual city named Pokeville in a free car, which you accessed from a pool.

You are showing a visitor around and, in a bid to impress the person, you have decided to ban the ugly buildings, rubbish heaps and ghettos from the tour.

No problem: Just press the touchscreen windshield and hey, presto, you have activated your personal profile.

This allows you to make the city appear to you and your group as you wish through special windows. Zap out the graffiti on the wall on the left; zoom in on the building on the right where an empty apartment is available for rent. Park the car.

“The car of the future is bigger and basically a taxi without a driver. It is no longer a vehicle for manoeuvring through traffic but is rather a sensorial experience machine. The experience is no longer one of driving but of being driven,” Juergen Mayer H says.

This brave new vision was the winning entry in the 2010 Audi Urban Future Award worth 100,000 euro (133,310 dollars).

Every two years, the German carmaker invites renowned architects to compete in an attempt to establish a dialogue on the synergy of mobility, architecture and urban development in the future.

Juergen Mayer H said the inspiration for his concept came from young people in the Iranian capital Teheran, who spend many an evening cruising around the city in their cars for want of other means of getting to know people, making the car a social networking tool. In Pokeville circa 2030, you just have to jab at your touchscreen windshield to find out where there are bars and clubs and potential partners available for flirting.

Asked where such a vision could be realized, Mayer H cited Zimbabwe or Namibia in Africa as potential hosts to Pokevilles of the future.

He noted: “Their lack of complex infrastructure makes them ideal.

One need only take Zimbabwe’s mobile phone network, one of the ’world’s best’, as an example. Zimbabwe did not have a large landline network initially and this simplified things for mobile phone operators.” Six of the world’s leading architectural companies vied for the prize. Mayer’s vision winning is called A.WAY. In its most radical form, A.WAY, or a pun on “away” is a premise based on the repercussions of the ozone hole discovered in 1985. Cities were growing into gargantuan urban sprawls and becoming ever more complex.

Their size, a soaring world population and congestion were the main causes of pollution.

The discovery of the ozone hole prompted the realization that urban reality was at stake. But the ozone hole also served as a window into a new reality in which the invisible and the visible, the immaterial and material, the virtual and real could co-exist.

In Mayer’s vision in the mid 21st century, cars run on electricity taken from a smart—grid, also known as the Electricity Embedded Environment (EEE), and come with integrated, augmented reality software. Digital technology has blurred the boundaries between body, car and architecture as the inside and outside has been 3D mapped.

Assistants and automated driving gadgets take over the driver’s role, making features such as left, right and rear mirrors and headlights obsolete. All a driver has to do is to plug in their digital profile and augmented technologies enhance the mobile experience in the city.

Stop-and-go traffic is a thing of the past as traffic now flows smoothly and silently. Cities have regained lanes that used to be cluttered by many parked cars. Street signage, billboards and road markings belong to a bygone era, as a driver in 2030 just has to type his destination into a satellite-navigation system and is driven there.

Workshops will be held with Audi this year to study how certain aspects of the A.WAY interdisciplinary concept can be realized.

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