A vision of the future
Called the Audi AI:ME, this new concept study is a vision of the near future and a star of the Shanghai Motor Show.
A compact vehicle, packed with features that are set to change the way we think about mobility in the very near future.
16 April, 2019
Audi AI:ME is an exciting vision of future mobility aimed squarely at the world’s megacities
Compact yet spacious, a futuristic interior and the ability to drive autonomously at level 4. Packed full of high-tech features for communication, entertainment, or simply relaxation – welcome to the future of big city mobility.
One of the standouts at this year’s Auto Shanghai (Shanghai Motor Show) which kicks off this week, the Audi AI:ME is an exciting vision of future mobility aimed squarely at the world’s megacities. Performance and high-speed give way to extraordinary interior comfort and allowing the occupants to literally switch off from the cares and pressures of the everyday and let the car do the driving.
At 4.3 metres long and1.9m wide the Audi AI:ME is the size of a present-day compact car, but with a wheelbase of 2.77m and height of 1.52m, the interior dimensions are significantly more generous. This is made possible by the architecture of the electric drive which allows for short overhangs and a large-volume interior without a drive shaft tunnel, given that the drive unit – producing 125kW – is positioned on the rear axle.
The Audi AI:ME is designed as a 2 plus-x- seater. Its layout relies on a variety of configurations for seat positions and storage space – tailored for individuals and their specific needs. While only the individual seats at the front will be used during most journeys, the car offers space for up to four people in the front and on the rear bench if necessary.
The name of this new concept is no accident, the AI designation now well known and used on Audi’s artificial intelligence and autonomous projects.
Audi AI uses numerous strategies and technologies from the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning as well as combining vehicle intelligence, which makes automated driving possible in the first place, and interaction intelligence, which turns the vehicle into the occupants’ partner. The Audi AI:ME is designed for use in the city and for driving at what is known as level 4 – the second-highest level on a standardised international scale for increasing automation. Although systems with level 4 do not require any assistance on the part of the driver, their function is limited to a specific area – say highways or a specially equipped areas in inner cities. In these places, the driver can completely transfer the task of driving to the system only needing to resume the task when the car leaves that specific area.
The focus here is less on the traditional connection between driver and vehicle – think steering wheel, instruments, pedals – and more on the time spent kicking back and enjoying the automated vehicle. This is why these control elements are retracted with an elegant and sophisticated choreography and are then almost fully concealed by a storage compartment with a surface made of open-pore walnut wood.
The Audi AI:ME is designed for driving at level 4 – the second-highest level on a standardised international scale for increasing automation
Forget conventional drinks holders for example – here, magnets serve as cup holders and hold metal cups or plates in place
Indeed storage will become more important than before in automated vehicles and the Audi AI:ME features large areas both on the cockpit cover and between the front seats. Forget conventional drinks holders for example – here, magnets serve as cup holders and hold metal cups or plates in place as required.
Communication and interaction systems also take a leap into the future and are operated by eye tracking, voice input, and touch-sensitive fields in the door rail. They are positioned perfectly in terms of ergonomics and are normally integrated into the surface, making them invisible. The lighting is activated only when approached, and guides the user’s gaze to the functional surfaces.
There is a multifunctional, three-dimensional OLED monitor that runs below and along the entire length of the windscreen and is used primarily in dialogue with eye-tracking control. Terminologically coded function menus, for example for navigation or infotainment, can be activated with the eye and then open up further levels that move from the background into the sharp view mode on the 3D monitor.
There are VR goggles on board for the visual output of the infotainment system – demonstrated with the Holoride system at the CES 2019 in Las Vegas. The occupants experience the interior of the Audi AI:ME not simply as a means of transport, but with high-quality audio system coupled with noise compensation that can completely suppress the outside noise level by means of active noise control. The ultimate escape.
Surfaces and structures that are familiar from the home environment dominate even in terms of the materials. High-quality textiles, some made of recycled products, wood, and the touchpads in the door rails made of the mineral composite material Corian, which is particularly pleasant to touch, give the predominantly technical character of the vehicle a familiar and luxurious touch.
The use of real plants in the interior of the automobile is another first. Vegetation, which is rarely found in the hostile city environment, gives occupants a feeling of proximity to nature and helps to objectively improve air quality in the automobile at the same time.
The architecture of the body is a departure from current Audi architecture, but certain similarities to the Audi AIcon concept car from 2017 are there is you look closely. Exterior lighting will play an important yet different role in future too, not so much needed to illuminate the road for the largely absent driver, but instead communicating with other road users. The Audi lighting designers integrated LED elements in the body in an unusually high position above the wheel wells, where they are visible from all angles. This 360-degree communication is an important additional safety feature for pedestrians or cyclists.
As was the case in the AIcon, the LED units at the front and the micro matrix projectors can use easily identifiable symbols to signal to pedestrians when the AI:ME is letting them cross the road, for example, and the graphics can be projected onto the road or a wall.
Exterior lighting will play an important yet different role in future communicating with other road users
Designed specifically as a city vehicle, high-speed and sports performance were not essential ingredients in the AI:ME's makeup
The Audi AI:ME can also interpret signals from other vehicles and use its own lighting technology to amplify them and resend them if this improves the situation for other road users. Say for example there is an accident ahead, the AI:ME can share this information with other road users giving them forwarding of the situation.
But for those puts out there not ready to completely surrender to the future. Even as a level 4 vehicle, the Audi AI:ME is equipped with bright LED headlights and perfectly visible brake and tail lights for all those situations where drivers take the wheel themselves.
As the AI:ME is designed specifically as a city vehicle, high-speed and sports performance were not essential ingredients in its design. The AI:ME will see most of its duty between 20 and 70km/h and will often have to remain mobile for hours at a time without charging. But long ranges in terms of kilometres are less relevant than the ability to make good use of the operating time.
Hence a battery unit with a storage capacity of 65 kilowatt hours is sufficient for meeting these requirements working with a permanently excited synchronous motor that can mobilise 125kW if necessary. A fraction of this is usually sufficient for keeping up with the flow of city traffic and thanks to brake energy recuperation and its comparatively low weight, the Audi AI:ME exhibits extremely low energy consumption even in city traffic. The body is also made of a light-weight multi-material compound consisting of high-tech steel, aluminium, and plastic components, particularly in the attachments which aids in its frugal energy needs.
Of course the Audi AI:ME is designed for specific city driving and won’t fit the ‘sports requirements’ of some customers or the long-range needs of others. But this is where systems like Audi on demand will become more and more prevalent in the future, allowing customers to order the specific vehicle they need for each specific purpose without having to own a garage full of different vehicles.
Need an easy commute to the office – Audi AI:ME fits the bill. Looking for a day at the race track – definitely something like the Audi PB 18 e-tron would be perfect. Simply a matter of booking the right car for the appropriate amount of time and your needs will be perfectly met.
Audi on demand is available in metropolises on several continents and is already the perfect example of the future expansion of Audi’s offer into a global mobility service provider. With the simultaneous expansion and specialisation of the vehicle fleet, this program will become even more attractive to customers with high demands in the future. The premium vehicle offer itself and the digital integration of the automobile and living environment will give the Audi brand a head start in this segment, too: Vorsprung durch Technik in action.
Systems like 'Audi on demand' will become more and more prevalent in the future, allowing customers to order the specific vehicle they need for each specific purpose
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