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Time travelling into 2038

A broad street runs alongside a big park in the foreground. Street and park are bordered by houses in the middle ground and are populated with cars, cyclists and pedestrians.
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Prof. Dr Marianne Reeb develops scenarios that inspire Daimler engineers to shape the city of tomorrow.

Prof. Dr Marianne Reeb describes a future we can all look forward to. Because, in spite of the dizzying pace of technological progress, humans will be the driving force behind the city of tomorrow even more so than today. The futurologist has identified four points that will likely characterise our vision of the city of the future: health, movement, mixed use and flexibility. Consequently, there will be lots of green spaces and water. City centres will be dominated by cars, bikes and pedestrians alike. Spaces for working and living will often be integrated into one another. The flexible urban landscape will accommodate streets, cycle lanes and footpaths that blend together. We are envisioning a world that at first glance looks familiar – it will only work differently, thanks to increased connectivity and sensor technology. There were approximately 11 billion networked objects as of 2018, and this number will more than double in the next two years. By 2038, the effect on our cities will be streets, buildings, pedestrians, cyclists, buses, trains and cars that are continually connected and directed – as if by magic – to work in harmony.

Prof. Dr Marianne Reeb outlines four possible scenarios for the city of the future with an imagining of Stuttgart’s Marienplatz in 2038.

A close-up of a street shows several futuristic cars guided by illuminated grid-pattern signals on the ground.

Scenario 1

“We assume all cars in the city of the future will be able to drive autonomously and be networked with the environment. Roads and buildings will have sensors to help them perceive the environment. The city of the future will be adaptive and will be able to make predictions. Illuminated signals on the road will show cyclists the safest route, for example, and light signals will let autonomous cars communicate to other road users. Footpaths, cycle paths and roads will share the same surface, making urban space more flexible than ever. We will also use our autonomous vehicles more flexibly, deciding if we want to work, watch films or sleep in them. Whether we use mobility on demand for ourselves or in groups, it will shape our daily lives.”

A futuristic elevated railway runs between two housing blocks and toward a park.

Scenario 2

“Stuttgart has an elevated railway. This old and popular form of transport can only take you a little ways, but it is part of the city’s folklore. We address this elevated railway in our scenario by installing it more comprehensively within the city. Seamless transitions between different forms of transport will be more important in the future. We do not believe that transport will become increasingly aerial because increased air traffic does not, in our view, improve our quality of life.”

People are sitting and standing around a small pond in a park, and some are stretching. In the background, children are playing on a climbing frame.

Scenario 3

“We all want a green and active city that lets us move around freely. Various little service robots will perform different functions and be fully integrated into the urban landscape. There will probably also be robots to deliver our dry cleaning. In most cases, however, unlike in sci-fi films, they will not look like people. These technological services are popping up more and more in our lives now. In Copenhagen, there is an app that precisely calculates which route cyclists should take. After all, traffic jams for cyclists are already an everyday occurrence there and in Amsterdam.”

People are sitting on stairs in a park, and some are reading. There are also people walking around. In the background a station of an elevated railway is visible.

Scenario 4

“One major task of the city of the future will be to use the scarce amount of available space in the most efficient way. Moreover, we believe that the digital world will increase the desire for tactile experiences. For example, we will still be reading printed newspapers. Generally speaking, the current trend towards individualisation will become more prominent. Even when technology develops in a fast and disruptive way, human behaviour does not change at the same speed. Technology must adapt to our requirements and not the other way around because, despite the fast pace of change, humans will still be the driving force in the city of the future. Technology, even more so than it is today, will be tailored to our individual requirements.”