Audi Launches New Project To Make Commuting Comfy

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Urban mobility is a hot topic these days -- and rightly so. Roughly 50% of the world's population now lives in urban areas, and by 2030, that figure should hit 60%. As cities and megacities grow, navigating them swiftly and efficiently will become critical for economic, social, and safety reasons. A number of companies are looking to address those problems, and now we can add Audi to the list.

The Urban Intelligent Assist project

Audi has just launched a three-year research initiative called the "Urban Intelligent Assist" project, which aims to reduce "the congestion, dangers and inconveniences that often confront drivers in the world's biggest cities". To meet that goal, the automaker has tapped the brain power of its own California-based Electronics Research Laboratory, as well as the University of California at Berkeley, the University of California at San Diego, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, and the University of Southern California Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies. The consortium will look at several areas of concern, including:

  • Identifying specific accident hot spots;
  • Improving real-time traffic reports; and
  • Identifying travel routes to make transit less stressful. (Yes, the project will measure stress levels in individual drivers.)

After reading through Audi's press release (pasted below), it appears that the project isn't so much interested in creating mass transit alternatives for commuters, but in developing intelligent vehicles -- ones with advanced telematics and accident avoidance systems, and cars that "talk" to one another. That's a clever approach, particularly for Americans, who talk a lot about carpooling and such, but don't usually practice what they preach.

Going green, Audi style

The  "Urban Intelligent Assist" project is part of a larger trend we've seen in recent years. It's related to the "green" movement, but whereas many green projects ask individuals to sacrifice comfort for the sake of the planet (e.g. don't travel by jet, don't buy luxury gas-guzzlers), initiatives like Audi's rely on advanced technology to provide greener transportation. Zipcar, ride-sharing apps, and cars that drive themselves -- both in urban areas and on highways -- are tech-driven solutions to the problems of congestion, pollution, and safety. 

Audi isn't the only automaker exploring these issues -- Ford and others are doing so, too -- but as car tech fans, we're very interested to see the results.

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Audi, Researchers at Four U.S. Universities Begin Work on Solutions to Urban Mobility Challenges

- 'Audi Urban Intelligent Assist' project involves university research teams in California and Michigan

- The goal is to find connected car technologies that reduce congestion, improve safety and make urban driving less stressful

- Audi and ERL are engaging the best universities to solve tomorrow's mobility challenges

HERNDON, Va., Jan. 18, 2011 -- A new research initiative launched by Audi, its Electronics Research Laboratory in Silicon Valley and four top U.S. universities will develop technologies aimed at easing the congestion, dangers and inconveniences that often confront drivers in the world's biggest cities.

The new three-year research initiative is called "Audi Urban Intelligent Assist." The aim is to take connected car, driver assistance and infrastructure electronics to the next level of providing detailed information so motorists have a better sense of the driving conditions surrounding them.

With this initiative, the universities, ERL and Audi want to cover the complete process of navigating in a mega city. The vision is to develop Audi models that will recognize individual motorists behind the wheel, know preferred destinations, routes the motorists have most commonly traveled and the time needed to reach appointments. The car will be able to help the drivers detect and avoid dangerous situations better, too.

The universities involved in the Audi Urban Intelligent Assist initiative are the University of Southern California, University of California at Berkeley, University of California at San Diego and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI).

"Technologies that help motorists become more aware and efficient are a crucial step toward solving some of the biggest transportation challenges on the horizon across the world," said Dr. Burkhard Huhnke, executive director of the Audi Electronics Research Laboratory in Palo Alto, Calif. "Audi is confident that this initiative will provide an important insight on the future of urban transportation and produce innovative concepts that promote efficient, pleasant, and safer mobility."

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