Audi has shown of its vision for the future via two new driverless concepts.
The German brand has revealed how recent advances in artificial intelligence are already shaping its vision for the car of tomorrow with the unveiling of two new concepts, the Elaine and Aicon.
Breaking cover at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show the electric-powered Elaine SUV and Aicon sedan have been created to showcase a raft of technologies being developed by Audi for inclusion on upcoming production models while providing clues to how driverless cars may look in the future.
The two new concepts utilise 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 infrastructure as well as 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 features Level 4 autonomous driving functions such as remote parking that allows driver to command the car to find a car space and park itself.
The Aicon on the other hand looks further down the road and has an interior that removes many modern conventions like a steering wheel and ledals and replaces them with a luxurious ounge. It also incorporates Level 5 autonomous driving technology that Audi says will bring about a dramatic reduction in road accidents in the future.
Stylistically, the Elaine builds on the look of the e-tron Sportback concept revealed at the Shanghai motor show in China. It is claimed to provide the best hints yet to Audi’s second series electric model due out in 2019.
Power for the Elaine comes from three electric motors – one mounted within the front axle and two at the rear. Together they provide four-wheel drive capability.
The three electric motors deliver a combined 320kW of power, with a so-called boost function allowing momentary bursts of up 370kW. A large 95kWh lithium-ion battery is also said to provide it with an overall range of up to 500km.
There are two options for charging: a socket based fast charging function and inductive via an Audi Wireless Charging system.
The Elaine also features a so-called highway pilot which is an extension of the traffic jam pilot to be made available on the new A8, allowing hands-off driving at speeds from 60-130km/h.
Conceived to show how a self-driving Audi model may look beyond 2025, the Aicon eschews what Ingolstadt official describe as the Robot Taxi theme evident on many recent autonomous driving concept for an bold exterior design incorporating reinterpreted elements from its current line-up, including a newly wrought single frame grille, prominent wheel houses and rounded glasshouse.
A low waistline and glass roof are included to maximise visibility out of the new concept. The top of the side windows also angle outwards, so that the widest point of the Aicon is at the eye level of its occupants.
Hinting at a car in the same class as the A8, the Aicon stretches to 5444mm in length, 2100mm in width and 1506mm in height. It also rides on a wheelbase that is a considerable 240mm longer than that of the new Audi flagship at 3470mm.
Entry to the new Audi concept is via opposed doors that open to the front and the 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 by 500mm inches back and forth and swivel through up to 15 degrees to ease entry and exit. The rear is equipped with a bench style seat shaped to accept two occupants.
Picking up on the autonomous qualities of the new concept, Audi’s design team have also taken further licence by equipping the Aicon with a mini drone. It acts as a so-called “light companion” when passenger’s exit the interior in the dark by illuminating their path.
Power for the big Audi concept is delivered by four electric motors. The brushless asynchronous units are mounted low down at each corner where they provide direct drive to each of the Aicon’s 26-inch wheels and the basis for electronically controlled variable four-wheel drive. In what Ingolstadt insiders suggest 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, Audi quotes a combined output of 260kW and 406Nm 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 an autonomous driving car of the future boasts a zero-emission range of up to 800km.
Recharging is via an 800-volt system, with the battery capable of being charged to 80 per cent of capacity in less than 30 minutes. As well as supporting conventional plug in charging, the Audi concept is also equipped with an inductive system that allows it to pull up to charging station on its own and charge its batteries without the need for a driver.
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