Date: 12/17/2019 – Author: Thomas Bott
Reading time: 5 minutes

“Revolutionizing starts with questioning — and questioning means always to challenge the status quo,” said Gaby-Luise Wüst, President of Audi China, at the start of this year’s MQ! Innovation Summit. This was the big goal of the Audi event held in Beijing, China. Great speakers and guests were on site, where they worked together on the future of mobility.  A topic in which new perspectives are important as needs and situations are constantly changing.

Wüst was sure that the participants had brought them along: “We are driven by visions and the will to pursue them actively.” China stands out for doing this particularly well, because ideas do not stay ideas for long — but instead are quickly followed by action: “So much more can be done in a minute in China compared to the rest of the world. With the Audi MQ! Innovation Summit, we are obviously at the place where the future is being made!”

A new direction for global mobility

This was also confirmed by the first speaker, Peggy Liu: “Every moment you see China, the next moment is different. China is a new country every five years.” For the country, this is not only about pure progress, but also about a more sustainable one: “We can learn lessons from China about how to deploy sustainable solutions at scale. The world is undergoing extreme change. If we want harmonious change, rather than chaotic, we need to be open to learning lessons from China.”

According to Peggy Liu, such a change is not complicated because “to change the world it just takes a little bit of imagination.” But what does a sustainable future look like for her in this sector? First and foremost, one principle is important: “Sustainable mobility is not just about low carbon emissions, it’s about zero carbon emissions,” she said. The necessary rethinking is already in full swing: “The dream for individuals in cities has changed from ‘one car per person’ to ‘undisrupted immediate access to movement.’”

Autonomous driving as a possible mobility solution

In the future, however, cars won’t disappear from the picture by any means, instead they will be part of a coherent traffic concept. Drivers will disappear and digital systems will take over. Daizong Liu of the World Resources Institute has been working on autonomous driving for some time now. In his speech, he explained why exactly this is the future: “Technology helps people to take over more space. Only 6% of the cars are moving. The most are parking. 80% of the parking lots can be used for something else.” Autonomous cars thus give cities more space — for housing, for example.

But the autonomous vehicles can also be utilized for housing: “You can sleep in the car, enjoy breakfast in the car, and arrive at work on time. Technology is here to serve people.” Nevertheless, Daizon Liu warned: “The future is more than autonomous driving. Car sharing, autonomous driving, and electrification are all very important.”

Artificial intelligence as a driving force

For cars to be able to be on the road without human intervention, a digital system is needed that can make its own decisions, making artificial intelligence essential for autonomous driving. No one has as much experience with this technology as Dr. Kai-Fu Lee. He has been researching it for 39 years now,  and he still doesn’t get bored of the possibilities, he shared at the MQ! Innovation Summit, in fact: “It is the most exciting thing I could imagine.”

What used to seem far off in the future and only possible in movies is now reality: “One of the first thoughts about AI often is that it is science fiction and very far away. But it is operational today. In the next 10 to 15 years AI will be everywhere.” AI not only learns from people, but also the other way around: “When AI becomes a tutor, it owns all the wisdom of every teacher of the world. With AI children will have the best quality of education”, said Derek Haoyang Li.

According to Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, “AI is equal to or better than human capabilities in specific domains.” That could soon include driving a car. This also has a big time advantage for people, he continued. “With autonomous driving, we will save up to 9% of total human time on earth. That’s a huge saving.” But as Dr. Kai-Fu Lee also pointed out, non-human systems also have disadvantages: “We talked a lot about what AI can do. Let’s also talk about, what AI cannot do: AI is a cold machine. it has no trust, no compassion, no warmth.”

Man and machine merge

So what if the advantages of two worlds could simply be combined? Dr. Patrick Kramer asked exactly this question at MQ! Innovation Summit 2019. The biohacker explained how technology can already provide people with additional functions — similar to an upgrade: “We are looking for ways to quantify our body and start to rethink how we interact with the world around us.” He himself has already found a way with microchips, storing data on them. According to Dr. Patrick Kramer, this has many applications: “For years I haven’t used keys to open my house, to start my car, to open my letterbox. You can basically replace all the clutter that you are carrying with you. You just digitize them with microchip implants.”

The chips lie under the skin, can be implanted within a few minutes, and removed at any time. “Implanted technology causes fear. If people hear something goes under the skin, they freak out. I really hope that technology is not something that makes you afraid. Cause a connected human is a concept that allows us to live more intensively. Connecting to robots is something that we are going to learn to be natural,” he continued.

Energy must be green and always available

Whether it be autonomous cars, artificial intelligence, or cyborgs, energy is always an important topic. That’s what entrepreneur Caritta Seppä takes care of. With her company Tespack, she is pursuing an ambitious goal: “Our vision is to ensure that every human would be the masters of their own energy field. I am passionate about bringing energy mobile — bringing energy to everyone.” While it wasn’t always easy for her, giving up was never an option for Caritta Seppä. And she said this should be no different for prospective company founders and innovators: “It doesn’t matter where you come from, what you studied, where you are currently even working at. What really matters is that you need to have passion. You need to be able to do what you love.”

To realize Tespak’s vision, it is also working with the Audi Environmental Foundation. For example, rescue workers are to be provided with the necessary equipment for a stable and mobile energy supply — in the most sustainable way possible. This in turn has a positive effect on the general public, as Dr. Rüdiger Recknagel, Managing Director of the Audi Environmental Foundation, explains: “With tech, environmental protection becomes exciting. With tech, environmental protection is fascinating. Be sure, we all need greenovation. We have a responsibility for this world. We are active promoters of greenovation with passion for the environment.”