“Urban Future” envisions safe streets for vehicles and pedestrians alike

The Concept

The concept is highly futuristic that will need at least 20-25 years to execute, even by optimistic estimates. The idea is to have a street that interacts with cars, travelers and the pedestrians in a manner so that there is no further need of sidewalks, carriageways or city squares. Roads get made and pedestrians are directed according to the need, since the whole alley and road is a programmable digital surface. Thus, what was a pedestrian path, for a while, can be changed into a road when the traffic grows and vice versa, completely based on the demands that can be programmed into the system. In fact, the concept has bagged the Audi Urban Future Award, 2010, for the positive spatial impact that it creates.

Urban Future concept

The inspiration

The idea of blurring the lines amongst roads, city squares and sidewalks has always been appealing, for it offers greater freedom by removing restrictions. With the population at an all time high and vehicular traffic being at peak, traffic jams are a regular feature in any major city. To solve these problems, the idea of the “Urban Future” was developed by BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) as an entry to the Audi Urban Future Award, 2010 (where the new Audi A2 concept car, which interacts with its surroundings is also being featured). BIG founder Bjarke Ingels and his partner, Andreas K. Pedersen, have taken the idea forward for the Design Miami 2011, by conceiving an interactive LED installation to represent a probable section of the ‘city of tomorrow’.

Where we are now

This is not the first time that an attempt is being made to make a network that harmoniously blends the people with the infrastructure and the vehicles. The different concepts have been developed and are at various stages of perfection. It must be said, however, that the “Urban Future” is the most eye-catching among all the other concepts. And we say this, based on where each project is, now!

As a working prototype, the “Urban Future” features an installation that is almost 185 square meter (or 1,991 square feet) section of a road. The entire area has been covered with a digitally programmable LED. This makes use of 3D cameras to sense not only the motion of the vehicles but also of the pedestrians and peddlers. This small illustration, strives to impress on how elegant and easy the future of traffic control would be and how the roads would become safe.

What makes it stand out

Here is a single system that unifies a host of other systems; traffic controllers, pedestrian crossings, footpaths, sidewalks, green belts, all that would be necessary otherwise. It is a fantastic representation of the future potential of technology. Audi has always been in the forefront when it comes to designing futuristic ideas based on technology. And, they have scored high here. The concept makes intelligent and optimum usage of the urban space whose availability is becoming a premium with every passing day.

One look at the prototype and you get a clear cut picture of how the city of the future will be productively networked to provide safety and a rich outdoor experience. It will show traffic flowing continuously, without the need for traffic lights. The ‘road’ would become a space with multi-functional abilities that would be determined entirely based on the needs.

Where do we go from here

With so much development of the concept already available, it is not tough to realize that the idea has tremendous potential. Just like that cellphone revolution arrived and almost wiped out the land-line telephones, this concept can replace so many existing technologies and systems. The concept introduces a sort of democracy on the streets where each ‘vote’ counts but there is a slight advantage to the majority.

This will mean that traffic gets priority during peak hours and when the pedestrian population is large, they get the priority. It gets easier for people to understand and follow rules. It also becomes easier to book and nab offenders.

And for those who bother about negligent driving, remember that the cars and vehicles that come along this concept are intelligent too. They will ensure that there is no collision. The best possible paths and patterns for the least crowding and maximum movement will be chosen by a highly intelligent system that is guided with hundreds of 3D cameras. In such a controlled environment, it will be the machines that take over almost all processes, except thinking and idea-generation.

Related trends

The “Urban Future” concept seems to have found some small footholds in our world already. A concept that is being actively pursued for implementation is that of a solar roadway.

1. Solar Roadways could be the future of road surfacing

Solar Roadways

The trend of making use of solar roadways, as conceived by Scott Brusaw, is fast gaining ground in the US. The idea makes use of solar panels on the roads to generate energy.The USA alone has about 75,000 square kilometers of roads, parking lots, alleys and lanes and the energy produced from it could be sufficient to meet all the energy needs of the world. And all this energy would be clean and green. The LEDs on the road will act as indicators and broadcaster of messages. Heating elements built in will ensure that the roads never get covered in snow, and dry up fast in the wet seasons.

Since the idea is to have glass panels as strong as steel, once laid, the roads will be free of any maintenance. And nobody would need to curse a bad road filled with potholes and humps. Further, the glass will be textured to offer a good grip for the tires.

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