Audi is continually expanding its network. Around 400 experts from many industries have taken part in the first “MQ! The Mobility Quotient“ innovation summit in Ingolstadt. Keynote addresses by prominent speakers such as Steve Wozniak and a dozen workspaces offered the chance to discuss the future of mobility from a variety of perspectives and to develop new ideas as a group.
Never stop questioning – what does this principle, once asserted by Albert Einstein, mean? “Commit to radical innovation,” urged Mo Gawdat, Chief Business Officer of the Google X research laboratory. “My goal is free knowledge for everyone on the planet,” postulated Jimmy Wales, the visionary behind the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. “The human brain is very powerful,” said Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak. “But artificial intelligence will make our lives much easier.”
Gawdat, Wales and Wozniak were three of ten keynote speakers at the premiere of MQ! The Mobility Quotient, the Audi innovation summit held in early September in Ingolstadt. Around 400 international visionaries, experts and visitors spent two days discussing the future of mobility in presentations and workspaces. The goal was to arrive at a mobility quotient, a possible formula for mobility.
The method: consider four dimensions of mobility – spatial, social, chronological and sustainable mobility.
Flashback: Thursday, shortly after 4 p.m. The lights dim on the Arena, where five spectator stands surround a central stage. Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of Audi, opens the MQ! and invites Steve Wozniak to the stage. The Woz, a brilliant storyteller with a twinkle in his eye and sweeping gestures, talks about the history of Apple and forges a link to the future, to artificial intelligence and to the art of living. Moderator Jean-Pierre Kraemer asks what his personal vision of the mobility quotient would be. For him, Wozniak answers, it is the degree of individual freedom.
The diversity of the speakers and the worlds of ideas is what makes the kick-off of the MQ! so exciting. After Wozniak, speakers Sacha Vrazic, an expert in autonomous driving, and Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, talk about spatial mobility. Social mobility is the topic of Anna Nixon – a mere 17-years old, the pioneer in robotics advocates making it easier for girls to access high-tech jobs. Daniel Cronin – the “Pitch Professor” – encourages startup founders: “The only thing that can stop you is you yourself!” Mo Gawdat from Google X deliberated on chronological mobility: “Everything that is considered science fiction today will become reality.” And Carlo Ratti, an expert on smart cities and sustainable mobility, reported on projects like the autonomous boats on the canals in Amsterdam.
Witty, pointed, meditative, inspiring – each speaker at MQ! cast their own kind of spell over the audience. After the lectures, audience members can ask questions; a raffle allows some of them to meet the speakers in small meet-and-greet rounds. After each subject block, young Audi employees invite participants to attend the workspaces the next day with succinct introductory pitches.
The evening ends with the MQ! party. On a small stage, Dario Darnell alias Youngr performs popular electropop songs, playing all of the instruments himself. The setting for the party and for the entire MQ! is an Audi-owned event venue with more than 4,000 square meters (43,055.6 sq ft) of space and a rooftop terrace with a view over the factory rooftops. Dark colors, plenty of lounge areas and cushions, table soccer, bars for drinks and finger food – the large area offers a relaxed atmosphere.
The Friday begins with a keynote address by Jimmy Wales in the Arena – the central hub of the MQ! The Wikipedia founder presents an impassioned plea for intellectual independence and presents his project WikiTribune, a news portal where professional journalists cooperate with the Wikipedia community. Then the workspaces begin. Groups of 20 to 30 persons each assemble in 12 rooms. In three rounds of 90 minutes each, Audi experts and participants discuss issues from all areas of the company – autonomous driving, for example, digital assistants, swarm intelligence in production and emission-free drive systems.
The workspaces are reminiscent of a campus or start-up. Lego blocks are used as a resource by the production experts; the VR developers make use of data classes. The workspace with Audi expert Sebastian Falk focuses on when electric drive systems will gain the upper hand in the market over combustion engines. “Our cars are becoming better connected all the time and we developers must likewise become more widely connected,” the young engineer says. “We have to expand our expertise to new areas in which we can no longer manage all of the tasks ourselves. For this, we need impetus and knowledge from the outside.”
Dennis Heine, who in his workspace investigates which obstacles are still standing in the way of autonomous driving, expresses similar sentiments. “We are intensely interested in new ideas from the ‘crowd.’ Here at MQ! we are meeting with numerous really smart people from all over the world and are exchanging ideas with them.” The participants are having the same experience, and are also intrigued by the start-up spirit and sense of the dawning of new era coming from the MQ! event. Rodrigo from Bolivia says: “Until now, the automotive industry has moved forward in small steps. Here, I am experiencing a completely new level of innovation, opening and change.”
Not every inspiration can become a project; not every idea can become a business model. But that is not what this is all about. When the MQ! ends late in the afternoon, the big MQ! board next to the entrance has long been overflowing with notes. Many participants have simply written their thoughts on the wall next to the board. Out of the board. Out of the box. Change your mind. Never stop questioning!
Mobility – another central recognition of the MQ! – has an endless variety of facets. VR glasses move people virtually through space and time, Hyperloop capsules can transport them physically at more than 1,000 km/h (621.4 mph). Conversely, in Pakistan, mobility remains pure luxury for many – especially women. That is the way publicist Fatima Bhutto puts it; her presentation, together with that of David Rowan, publisher of the computer magazine WIRED UK, concludes the MQ! summit. And then there is also a very special kind of mobility. Volker Kaese, Innovation Manager Product at Audi, describes it: “The energy that has formed during this event is the fun that the participants had – that was a very strong mobility of ideas.”