Author Archives: Nicole Powers

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P1 – Research on Urban Mobility – Nicole Powers

In 2010 Audi started the Urban Future Initiative which is a program that wants to address the issues with Urban Mobility and plan for the future’s inevitable increase in demand for efficient mobility in urban centers.  They want to search for solutions to population increase and demand in transportation and see how the application of technology can provide sustainable, comfortable and profitable solutions to the demand for urban mobility. They’ve been working with the idea of piloted driving, or cars that can drive and park themselves.

The Urban Future Initiative also wanted to look at how an improvement in urban mobility could improve the use of spaces and give more back to the people in urban settings. In most Urban settings, new developments are not able to get the most out of their surface area due to parking requirements deemed necessary by law. Parking requirements, on average, take up to 40% of the surface area of most projects, which can “make or break the profitability of a development”. It is well known that most mobility issues stem from the volume of vehicles on the road, which can cause traffic jams and slow down movement in the city.  Audi has been searching for a way to apply technology to cars and see how they can improve the efficiency of cars and use them to solve our mobility issues rather than reducing the number of cars being used.  Audi has 2 projects that they will be installing to test their theory on whether or not self-parking cars can be the solution to our future mobility issues.

Case Study 1: Intelligent parking space management in Assembly Row

 Located in Somerville, MA on a “former industrial wasteland”, Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRT) is working on a project called Assembly Row.  This multi-use project will contain residences, offices, retail space, leisure amenities and a hotel. FRT wants to work with Audi on the implication of a new parking garage that caters to Audi’s self-piloting cars. Audi is claiming that with the use of self-parking cars, you can reduce the required size of parking spaces by up to 2 square meters.  You can also reduce the size of space given to parking because if the cars are self-parking, there is a reduced need for elevators and stairways that travel vertically through the building because there is going to be a significant reduction in human circulation in the parking garage.  With cars that park themselves, the drive aisles can be smaller, and you can align the parking stalls in rows behind each other because there is no clearance necessary for people exiting and entering the vehicles.  With these reductions in required space, this project is going to be able to give 26% of their required parking space back to the residences, offices, and other programs within the building which creates a better and more profitable project in just the first phase of construction. The first phase of construction is allowing the use of self-parking cars and consumer driven cars to park in the garage. In later phases, with full optimization, they will be able to give 60% of the parking space back to the rest of the building, which is a huge change of space.  This means that the parking garage will now only take up 20% of the surface area of the Assembly Row project.

Case Study 2: Intelligent Traffic Management at Union Square

Also Located in Somerville, MA this second part of Audi’s Urban Future Initiative is to try and move parked cars and cars looking for parking out of the streets. It’s reported that 30% of peak-time traffic is due to drivers who are searching for a parking location.  They want to use piloted-parking, similar to assembly Row’s piloted parking in which the car drops the consumer off in a central location to their destination and then drives off to park at an off-site garage. The garages would be located in less desirable locations, which allows attractive spaces to be fully used for the people that are using them.  It allows for more retail space, public open space, residences, etc. “The car will always be part of our mobility. At the same time, due to congestion and parking problems, today it shows us the limits of our mobility. With technologies from Audi we expect to be able to use the available urban space more efficiently. This enhance the quality of urban life” says Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. (citation).

Audi is also looking at how connectivity between phones and traffic lights can improve urban mobility.  Most consumers carry a phone everywhere that they go, they are constantly connected. Audi wants to use this information to connect phones, to the cars which then pick up signals from traffic signals at intersections.  This information can be relayed to tell self-driving cars what speed they should drive so that they reach the intersection when they have the green light rather than getting the red light and sitting at the intersection, causing slowdowns and traffic jams.  The increase in traffic flow speed can increase the available speed on the road to accommodate the increasing volume of cars on the road.

In conclusion, it is clear the to increase urban mobility and the experience that people have in urban centers, we need to take space away from vehicles and give it back to the people, while also optimizing the space that we do use for vehicles.  We can do this through self-piloted cars which allows us to reduce the amount of space required to accommodate parked cars.