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Audi and Somerville, Mass to partner on urban mobility; swarm intelligence and automated parking, networking cars with traffic lights

Audi will work with the city of Sommerville, Massachusetts to develop an urban strategy for Somerville, applying technologies for swarm intelligence or automated parking, and networking cars with traffic lights. Audi CEO Rupert Stadler and Sommerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone signed a Memorandum of Understanding for developing a new mobility strategy for Somerville in the context of the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona.

The focus of the MoU is on exchanging know-how and testing new technologies. In the long term, the two sides aim to develop innovations that reduce the space requirement of automobiles in the city and increase the speed of traffic flow.

With a central location in the Boston metropolitan area, Somerville is a role model for “smart cities.” After Silicon Valley, this region has the fastest-growing economy in North America. In the coming years, Union Square in Somerville will be transformed into a flourishing city center. By means of urban redevelopment, new dwellings, offices and commercial real estate will be built. More people on the same surface area also means, however, that the existing mobility infrastructure reaches its limits. Therefore Audi is supporting the project at Union Square with innovations such as the traffic-light assistant. This will help traffic to flow faster.

In addition to networked infrastructure, Audi is bringing automated parking to the project. Self-parking cars result in three different benefits. Parking garages can be relocated from the city center to less attractive places. At the same time the parking area required per car is reduced by approximately two square meters. The cars park closer together and need fewer, much narrower lanes in garages, where pedestrian paths, elevators and stairs are no longer required. A parking garage of the same size can then take up to 60% more vehicles—sufficient to end curbside parking. Finally, there are fewer cars on the roads searching for a place to park.

The second project in Somerville can also benefit from automated parking technology. In the Assembly Row neighborhood within the Assembly Square District, the real-estate developer Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRT) has master-planned and is building a mixed-use project just seven minutes from Boston. Residential buildings, a hotel, offices, retail spaces, entertainment, leisure facilities and parking are supported currently by a dedicated high-speed transit station linking the district to the urban core. In the US, many new urban construction projects strive to mix uses, in order to enhance the user experience and balance market demand, including a fixed number of parking spaces.

In Assembly Row each parking space can cost upwards of $25,000 on average. A fleet of self-parking cars would save space and reduce costs in Assembly Row up to a theoretical amount of $100 million, and could be managed intelligently by means of an exclusive sharing arrangement.


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