Roter Teppich bei der 68. Berlinale

Is the time of thrilling car chases over?

Berlinale 2018: How autonomous driving is changing the film industry

Car chases in the sky, driverless taxis and heroes on the sports car’s back seat. Blogger Michael Ankermüller investigated how autonomous driving will look like in the future of the film industry at the Berlinale 2018.

Concept Car Audi Elaine Heckansicht
Concept Car Audi Elaine: Are the days of thrilling car chases with the rise of autonomous driving cars over?

Almost a year ago, I attended a panel discussion at the Berlinale on the subject “car industry meets film industry – science fiction as an innovation driver?” and came to learn that one should doubt the advancement of autonomous cars no less than the historical breakthrough of the Internet. And that several visions known from movies could just as well exist in reality. At least, technically.

But what happens when the stylistic means of the “car” in movies changes to a self-driving one with the advancement of the technology? After all, the car and its driver have been subject of countless legendary movie scenes.

Miklos Kiss, head of advanced development automated driving at Audi, smiles as he says, “the only question to be asked when it comes to piloted driving is who will be the one to ultimately take the wheel. We are currently in the phase of semi-automated driving on level two to highly automated driving on level three. For the first time, the car will be able to drive in defined situations, such as congestion on the highway.”

Urs Spörri, German film industry expert, reviewer at the German film and media evaluation as well as curator in the cinema of the German film museum in Frankfurt, intervenes at this point. “Flying cars were already to be seen in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis from 1927. Or the self-propelled VW Beetle Herbie, which had human traits and was able to spray oil on his opponents in defense. Or let’s take Dudu, another beetle with human features, which was also able to cry. And let’s now forget KITT from Knight Rider, the epitome of self-driving cars, combined with artificial intelligence.”

Urs Spörri und Miklos Kiss im Gespräch bei der Berlinale

Head of Predevelopment Driver Assistance Systems at Audi Miklos Kiss (middle) under discussion with Urs Spörri (right), expert for German films.

Engineers as super heroes and cars with empathy

In this context, I ask myself the following key questions: While the car or driving was previously regarded as an expression of freedom in movies, could it possibly indicate a loss of freedom in the future? To the extent that humans are overhauled through self-learning algorithms? And let’s be honest, how boring would car chases between two self-driving cars be? Ryan Gosling on the back seat of a self-driving Mustang in Drive? Unimaginable. Let’s not forget the numerous arguments between the driver and the passenger. Years ago, the German director Christian Petzold spoke of the (…) closest form of ‘Kammerspiel’, i.e. chamber drama in this context.

“In Iran, for instance,” says Spörri, “the car is a central staging tool in movies. Taxi Tehran by Jafar Panahi is a good example. Everything that is discussed in the car, stays in the car. But just like technology evolves, so do film themes. Cars manipulated by hackers, engineers as new superheroes and cars with empathy and their own free will, to name a few.”

A gaze on the future major cities

Upon being asked what our big cities might look like in the future, Miklos lays his hands on his lap before answering. “The goal is to have self-propelled “Robotaxi” fleets that are automated around the clock and move people from A to B. Currently, about 65 percent of the traffic area is occupied by parked cars in major cities such as Berlin. Through piloted Robo fleets, we could unleash more urban areas in cities. Our clear goal is to rely on renewable energies in the long term. Nevertheless, we will still need public transport in the future.”

Audi Leiter Vorentwicklung automatisiertes Fahren Miklos Kiss im Gespräch
Miklos Kiss sees "Robotaxi" fleets as an integral part of our major cities in the future. They are meant to be running round the clock and transport people from one location to the next.

Author Isaac Asimov asked what could happen when technology meets the moral of society? Perhaps this question will become meaningful again when we talk about the car as a motive in movies in the future. And maybe car chases then will not take place on the street, but in the sky? One thing remains for sure, though. “The difference between fiction and reality is often not that big,” says Miklos. I can only agree to this.

Experience film culture at the Audi Berlinale Lounge
Audi MediaCenter

Experience film culture at the Audi Berlinale Lounge

More than 350 films, almost 500,000 visitors and a multitude of stars: this year’s 68th Berlin International Film Festival is once again attracting film buffs from all over the world to the German capital. Experience the Berlinale yourself at the Audi Berlinale Lounge located directly on Marlene Dietrich Platz. Together with the Berlinale, Audi will be presenting an extensive cultural program in the two-storey pavilion from February 15–24, including talks, concerts, screenings, lectures and interactive workshops.

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