Audi Concepts Give Glimpse of Autonomous Future

Made public on the eve of the 2017 Frankfurt auto show, the electric-powered ElAIne SUV and AIcon sedan showcase a raft of technologies Audi is developing for inclusion on upcoming production models while providing clues to how future driverless cars may look.

Greg Kable

September 11, 2017

6 Min Read
AIcon interior conjures lounge environment
AIcon interior conjures lounge environment.

FRANKFURT, Germany – Audi reveals how recent advances in artificial intelligence are shaping its vision for the car of tomorrow with the introduction of two hi-tech mobility concepts, the ElAIne and AIcon.

Made public here on the eve of the 2017 Frankfurt auto show, the electric-powered ElAIne SUV and AIcon sedan showcase a raft of technologies being developed by Audi for inclusion on upcoming production models while providing clues to how future driverless cars may look.

Styled in-house at Audi’s main design studio in Ingolstadt, the two new concepts are described as the most advanced ever undertaken by the German automaker with assistant systems that draw on artificial intelligence, autonomous-driving functions, machine learning and car-to-x communication technology to provide them with self-driving ability and the ability to network with both infrastructure and other road users.

Audi says the ability of artificial intelligence to learn and adapt to new driving situations will fundamentally change how cars are used and perceived. “The car will become more and more a third living space alongside our home and workplaces. Artificial intelligence will relieve strain and offer new possibilities to use the time spent in the car,” it says.

The ElAIne has been conceived to show how artificial-intelligence technology will influence the next generation of Audi models with Level 4 autonomous-driving function. It supports remote parking, allowing the driver to step out and command the vehicle to park itself in a multi-story garage or position itself in parking bays for the recharging of its battery.

The AIcon looks farther into the future with an interior devoid of a traditional cockpit, steering wheel and pedals for a luxurious lounge-like environment offering the latest in digital infotainment and communication solutions. It incorporates Level 5 autonomous-driving technology that Audi says will dramatically reduce road accidents in the future.

Stylistically, the ElAIne builds on the look of the e-tron Sportback concept revealed at the Shanghai auto show in China and provides the best hints yet to Audi’s second-series EV due out in 2019. At 192.9 ins. (4,900 mm) in length, 78.0 ins. (1,981 mm) in width and 60.2 ins. (1,529 mm) in width, it is 9.3 ins. (236 mm) longer, 3.4 ins. (86 mm) wider and 5.1 ins. (130 mm) lower than the recently introduced second-generation Q5. At 115.4 ins. (2,931 mm), its wheelbase is 4.3 ins. (109 mm) longer than that of Audi’s popular midrange SUV.

Power for the ElAIne comes from a production-based electric driveline Audi says will be used by future zero-emissions models. It uses three electric motors, one mounted within the front axle and two at the rear. Together they provide all-wheel-drive capability via an electronic quattro system with a torque vectoring function for each individual wheel.

The trio of electric motors deliver a combined 429 hp of power, with a so-called boost function allowing momentary bursts of up to 496 hp. Hinting at the acceleration potential of Audi’s second electric-powered production model, the ElAIne is claimed to sprint from 0-62 mph (100 km/h) in 4.5 seconds. A large 95-kWh lithium-ion battery is said to provide it with an overall range of up to 311 miles (501 km).

There are two options for charging: a socket-based fast-charging function and inductive via Audi’s wireless charging system.

Setting the ElAIne apart from the earlier Shanghai concept car is a series of autonomous-driving functions and driver-assistant systems that are being developed for use in upcoming Audi production models. Included is a so-called highway pilot. It is an extension of the traffic-jam pilot to be made available on the new A8 in selected markets, allowing hands-off driving at speeds from 37-81 mph (60-130 km/h).

AIcon Concept Retains Audi Design Esthetic

Conceived to show how a self-driving Audi model may look beyond 2025, the AIcon eschews what Ingolstadt officials describe as the Robot Taxi theme evident on many recent autonomous-driving concepts for a bold exterior design incorporating reinterpreted elements from its current lineup, including a newly wrought single-frame grille, prominent wheel houses and rounded glasshouse.

A low waistline and glass roof are included to maximize visibility. The top of the side windows also angle outwards, so that the AIcon’s widest point is at the eye level of its occupants.   

Hinting at a car in the same class as the A8, the AIcon stretches to 214.3 ins. (5,443 mm) in length, 82.6 ins. (2,098 mm) in width and 59.3 ins. (1,506 mm) in height. It also rides on a wheelbase that is 9.4 ins. (239 mm) longer than that of the new Audi flagship at a lengthy 136.6 ins. (3,470 mm).

Entry to the new Audi concept is via opposed doors that open to the front and rear to reveal a generous aperture devoid of a traditional B-pillar. The lack of a traditional dashboard and steering wheel frees up space in the front of the cabin, which receives two individual seats that can be adjusted back and forth by 19.6 ins. (498 mm) and swivel up to 15 degrees to ease entry and exit. The rear is equipped with a bench-style seat designed for two occupants.

Picking up on the autonomous qualities of the new concept, Audi’s design team has equipped the AIcon with a mini-drone that acts as a so-called “light companion” that illuminates their path when occupants exit the interior in darkness.

Power for the big Audi concept is delivered by four electric motors. The brushless asynchronous units are mounted low at each corner where they provide direct drive to each of the AIcon’s 26-in. wheels and the basis for electronically controlled variable all-wheel drive. In what Ingolstadt insiders suggest are hints to the power output of Audi’s first dedicated electric-powered model, the upcoming production version of the earlier e-tron quattro concept due out in 2018, the automaker quotes a combined 349 hp and 299 lb.-ft. (405 Nm) of torque.

Energy for the electric motors is stowed in what Audi describes as a solid-body battery. Mounted within the AIcon’s flat floor structure, it is claimed to provide more than double the energy capacity of a similarly sized lithium-ion battery used today. While theoretical in nature, Audi’s vision for a self-driving car of the future boasts a zero-emissions range of up to 497 miles (800 km).

Recharging is via an 800-volt system, with the battery capable of being charged to 80% of capacity in less than 30 minutes. Besides supporting conventional plug-in charging, the Audi concept is equipped with an inductive system that allows it to pull up to a charging station on its own and charge its batteries without the need for a driver.

 

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