Meet the Audi Aicon
A look at a totally autonomous future, with the Audi Aicon taking centre stage at Frankfurt International Motor Show.
12 September, 2017
Autonomous driving has taken centre stage at the 2017 Frankfurt International Motor Show, with Audi presenting the four-door Aicon – an Audi of the future with no steering wheel or pedals. The futuristic Aicon showcases a raft of technologies from drivetrain to suspension, digitalisation and sustainability in an arrestingly styled vision of the future.
The Aicon also represents the face of e-mobility for the brand, designed as it is for purely electric driving and boasting a range of 700 and 800 kilometres on a single charge.
Reminiscent of a first-class airline cabin, the idea of the Aicon is for the passengers to be housed in complete comfort, and surrounded by the very latest in communications electronics, infotainment and the connectivity, to make the most of their time as they are transported to their desired location.
Measuring 5444mm long, 2100mm wide and 1506mm in height, the Aicon is all about space for its occupants. Large glass surfaces at the front and rear as well as the significantly convex side windows create a bright expanse of space for the travellers,
Flared wheel arches not only emphasise Audi’s quattro DNA and house massive 26-inch wheels, while fully digital display surfaces comprising hundreds of triangular pixel segments take the place of conventional lights. Grouped around the Singleframe are large light fields, in which – as at the rear – more than 600 3D pixels are arranged in space. The large surfaces and high pixel count enable versatile graphics, animations and information visualisations in any colour.
Horizontally cut lighting segments to the left and right of the Singleframe look like eyes and can be expanded to resemble wide pupils or squinted for an aggressive look. If the car detects passers-by or other road users, it literally makes eye contact with them and follows them with its ‘eyes’.
The Audi Aicon uses animations on its display surfaces to warn pedestrians or cyclists of dangerous situations, while horizontal stripes of light move from the bottom up when the car accelerates and in the opposite direction during braking. Their speed increases or decreases in sync with that of the car. Future cars will expand their sphere of communication to the surroundings. The Audi Aicon uses projector modules to illuminate the road and surroundings in high resolution and project signals onto the ground.
"The futuristic Aicon showcases a raft of technologies from drivetrain to suspension, digitalisation and sustainability in an arrestingly styled vision of the future."
"The full range of services offered by modern communications electronics are available at all times in the Audi Aicon."
One thing that an autonomously driving vehicle of the future definitely won’t need anymore are long-range headlights. The Audi Aicon’s laser and radar sensor system also “sees” enough even in the dark, can reliably find the way and detects possible obstacles in good time. All this time the passengers can use the services provided by myAudi or even close their eyes for a while.
The Audi Aicon is a 2+2-seater, with an upholstered, two-seat bench integrated into the rear panel. The two front seats are designed for maximum comfort and passengers can slide them up to 500mm back and forth between the forward and rear positions. The pitch of the seat cushions and backrests can be steplessly adjusted for a comfortable working or resting position.
And while passenger accommodation and comfort is paramount, there is ample room for luggage, thanks to the design of the electric drive, with a storage compartment at both the front and the rear of the vehicle with a combined capacity of roughly 660 litres.
As well as an absence of steering wheel and pedals, all operating controls are also absent. Instead just wide, uninterrupted surfaces and the central display below the windscreen.
The interior quickly comes to life once passengers enter. Illuminated lines of LEDs set colorful accents in the area of the doors. The front display lights up with a welcome message. PIA, the empathetic electronic vehicle assistant, recognises the passenger by his phone and activates all of his personal settings. There are custom settings for the air conditioning and seating position, interior light colour and the layout of the infotainment system. The navigation system awaits entry of a destination, and all accessible channels of communication are ready for use, connected via the fastest available standard.
There are multiple input modes available for engaging with the car. Besides the haptic-manual layer, there are also voice control and eye tracking, in which sensors in the front end of the interior track where the passenger is looking. The full range of services offered by modern communications electronics are available at all times in the Audi Aicon. Travellers can relax and watch a film or surf the web. Video conferences are another option, as is interaction on social media.
The glass roof panels can block out the sunlight, if desired. Their transparency level changes upon application of an electric voltage.
In the future, vehicles will be in constant touch with each other and their surroundings, leading to greater traffic flow. This means that long distances will be covered at a high constant speed of around 130km/h without constant braking and accelerating.
Accidents will also be a thing of the past thanks to the highly advanced sensor systems and networking.
Providing the drive, a total of four electric motors are located in the area of the front and rear axles producing 260kW and 550Nm each. The energy storage units are integrated into the area below the floor. These are solid body batteries with considerably more energy capacity than lithium-ion batteries.
Each motor drives one wheel, enabling electronically controlled, variable quattro all-wheel drive. Maximum acceleration played a less important role in the specification than maximum efficiency and thus also range. This operating strategy is also pursued by the powertrain and electric brake units, which use recuperation to recover energy.
Thanks to a high-voltage system with 800 volts, the Aicon’s battery unit can be charged to 80 percent of capacity in less than 30 minutes. The car is also equipped with a unit of inductive, i.e. wireless, charging. The Aicon manages both without a driver. In an AI Zone, it can pull up to a charging station on its own and charge its battery without any human assistance.
In terms of ride comfort, pneumatic spring and damper units smooth out any road surface irregularities while electric actuators at all four wheels actively counteract any body lean. As a fully active suspension system, it also optimises the qualities of the adaptive air suspension allowing the Audi Aicon to literally glides over large potholes.
Braking too has been redesigned for the future. The Aicon brakes primarily by way of recuperation and in so doing also recharging the batteries.
The disk brakes have been relocated from the wheels to a position close to the drivetrain. This improves the aerodynamics at the wheels as there is no longer any need for air cooling at the wheels.
A tantalising look into the future, the Aicon will be followed by further multitalented Audi models, each with their own specialised discipline, and each ensuring a captivating automotive future.
"A tantalising look into the future, the Aicon will be followed by further multitalented Audi models."
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