Audi has unveiled its vision of an autonomous city car of the future at Auto Shanghai 2019
The compact Audi AI:ME showcar is spacious, with a stylish, futuristic interior. With level 4 autonomous driving ability, it gives the occupants freedom to relax and enjoy their journeys without worrying. It offers a wide range of state-of-the-art technology for communication, entertainment and relaxation.
The Audi AI:ME has exceptional interior space for a compact car, thanks to its short overhangs on the exterior and no propeller shaft tunnel in the interior:
The car’s drive unit is on the rear axle, producing 125 kW (170 metric hp). Designed as a two plus-x-seater, the Audi AI:ME has a variety of configurations for seat positions and stowage space. While only the seats at the front will be used during most journeys, the car offers space for up to four people.
The Audi AI:ME study will be showcased alongside a previous study in automotive driving, the Audi Alcon, which is a car capable of level 5 automated driving that was revealed in 2017.
What has long been established in rail transportation and even aviation will soon be the norm in automotive transportation with automated driving. The Audi AI:ME is designed for use in the city and for driving at what is known as level 4. This is the second-highest level on the 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—such as highways or a specially equipped area in inner cities.
In these places, the driver can completely transfer the task of driving to the system. The driver needs to resume driving only when the car leaves the area defined for fully automated driving.
Audi AI fundamentally changes how cars are used and significantly enhances the time spent on board. The car is increasingly becoming a third living space alongside our homes and workplaces.
The focus is less on the traditional connection between driver and vehicle—steering wheel, instruments, pedals—and more on the time spent in 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 stowage compartment with a surface made of open-pore walnut wood.
Stowage space will become more important in automated vehicles. The Audi AI:ME features large areas on the cockpit cover and between the front seats that conceal a further innovative detail: magnets hold metal cups or plates in place as required. Occupants can enjoy a relaxed meal while on the road.
The front seats are inspired by the classic lounge chair and feature a wide, comfortably cushioned seat, upholstered with textile material in warm shades of grey. The backrests are designed as curved shells. When the pedal set is not needed, drivers can rest their feet on the supports under the dashboard. On the rear bench, which reaches around to the side sections of the car, occupants can vary their seating position almost any way they like.
The vehicle and the communication and interaction systems are operated by means of eye tracking, voice input, and touch-sensitive fields in the door rail. 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.
There are virtual reality (VR) goggles on board for the visual output of the infotainment system. They turn internet use, watching movies, or even interactive gaming into a fascinating experience for the passengers.
The high-quality audio system is coupled with noise compensation that can completely suppress the outside noise level by means of active noise control. This allows occupants to enjoy meditative silence or listen to music in concert-hall quality.
The use of real plants in the interior of the automobile is a 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.
With the self-driving cars of the future, headlights will have a part-time job at best because the driver will be concerned with other things most of the time and will rarely need the road to be brightly illuminated. Communicating with other road users will still be very important.
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.
Like 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.
The graphics can be projected onto the road or a wall. This function is also used to illuminate the door area to ensure that occupants can enter or exit the vehicle safely and also to mark the vehicle for other road users. The matrix projectors can also provide additional safety to other road users with weaker lighting by automatically illuminating their surroundings.
The Audi AI:ME can interpret signals from other vehicles and use its own lighting technology to amplify them if this benefits the surroundings. Example: A vehicle driving in front indicates danger with faint hazard warning flashers. The AI:me can detect this signal and amplify it with projections and the LED units on the body so that it is clearly visible to all road users.