Audi chose to explore how digital technology might radically alter and improve safety of future streets. ‘Urban Future’ was a special exhibition at the 2011 edition of Design Miami/ created by Copenhagen-based architect firm BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group. The project is intended to show how streets of the future could communicate with drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. The concept was originally developed by BIG for the Audi Urban Future Award last year.
The installation at Design Miami/features a section of interactive roadway made from strips of LED lights. The lights change color and generate graphics which can highlight pedestrians and show a clear lane for vehicles. BIG founder Bjarke Ingels sees much more potential in implementing digital roads in the future.
If I imagine a city in 25 years’ time, the vertical facades appear unchanged, but the roadway has become a digitally programmable surface. Fixed elements such as carriageways, sidewalks or city squares no longer exist. The digital surfaces can be adapted to all road users and in this way control the traffic. On one single day, the street can change many times: from pedestrian area to highway, from city square to meadow.
Also part of the exhibit is Audi’s A2 electric concept car which debuted a few months ago at the Frankfurt Auto Show. The compact A2 concept includes in-car networking capabilities which could naturally interface with Urban Future roadway sharing location, traffic and navigation information.
Here’s a short video showing how people interact with the road and how the car’s path can adapt to obstacles. Walking on the surface was pretty hypnotic. Constructing entire roads using this method might be a stretch but certainly intersections where people and vehicles mingle could benefit from this technology to improve safety.