Envisioning tomorrow’s transportation in Germany and the USA

2049: Zeitreise Mobilität – Fraunhofer IAO and HR bring the future to life with VR

Scientists, businesses, and policymakers worldwide are striving toward sustainable transportation solutions that will transform urban life. Fraunhofer IAO and Hessischer Rundfunk (HR), a German regional broadcaster, have joined forces in a cross-media project to envision the future of urban transportation in both countries. Part of Deutschlandjahr USA (an initiative to promote German-American friendship), this project builds on the impressions of experts and users who were sent on a virtual-reality journey through time to experience what mobility may be like in 2049.

Self-driving cars, flying taxis, or mobility hubs that provide e-scooters, pedelecs, and other electric vehicles at the click of a button – is this what the future has in store for us? Is this how we want to travel? And how will it change the cityscape and urban life? Whatever is to come, one thing is certain: transportation means options and even habits will have to undergo lasting changes if cities are to confront the current challenges linked to climate protection and urban traffic.

Fostering acceptance for new means of transportation with experiential visions of the future

Various research groups as well as industrial and governmental initiatives around the world are working on solutions to make transportation sustainable and compatible with urban life. Technology has provided an abundance of ideas and approaches, but even the best solution will not prevail if these actors neglect to consider the city and its infrastructure as a system, or if they fail to foster acceptance early enough among citizens who must change their transportation habits. With this in mind, Hessischer Rundfunk initiated the cross-media project “2049: Zeitreise Mobilität” – a virtual journey to the future of transportation – as part of the Deutschlandjahr USA initiative. The project uses virtual reality to take viewers into real-world cities set in 2049, where they discover various mobility concepts in a playful way. As the project’s scientific partner, the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO co-developed the content for these scenarios. Fraunhofer IAO is also working on a survey-based study involving experts and users that visualizes the future of Germany and the USA separately, highlighting similarities and differences.

Diving into the future and shaping 2049’s transportation – at the IAA or with a 360° video

Visitors can experience this VR live at the ARD booth, a major German public broadcaster, at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Germany, from September 12 to 22, 2019. The HR has also posted a 360° video on its YouTube channel for anyone interested in immersing themselves in 2049’s transportation scenarios and sharing their feedback in a questionnaire:


“The feedback we got from re:publica visitors who tested the VR experience was extremely positive. Obtaining opinions on paper is vital to our research, but we need to see how people react emotionally to the various scenarios. We will also be at several events in the USA, for example, at the Summer Soiree held by the German-American Chamber of Commerce of the Southern U.S. on July 18, 2019 in Atlanta. What’s more, the Deutschlandjahr PopUp tour will take us to Portland from October 9 to 12, 2019 and to Boston’s HubWeek from October 1 to 3, 2019,” says Patrick Ruess, project manager at the Fraunhofer IAO.

When the study ends, a documentary by European broadcaster Arte will present the findings from the surveys as well as draw comparisons with similar research conducted abroad.