Self-driving and fully electric Tesla’s are cool but now Audi has moved the goal post further with the Aicon concept car, a level five fully autonomous vehicle which ditches the steering wheel and pedals for a completely self-driving experience.
That’s not all, the Audi Aicon is also fully electric, with a claimed range of between 700 and 800 kilometres on a single charge, surpassing that of the Tesla Model S P100D.
Each wheel in the Aicon is driven by individual electric motor, with a combined output of 260kW and 550Nm. A high-voltage 800 volt system is utilised for the electrical infrastructure and with wireless charging capabilities, the Aicon can recharge from near zero to 80 per cent capacity in just 30 minutes.
Being fully autonomous, the Aicon can drive to set destinations with no driver supervision required. With the on-board artificial intelligence (AI) system, the Aicon can also drive itself to a charging station.
The Audi Aicon looks spectacular from any angle. Its sheer size – an exterior length of 5,444 millimetres, a width of 2,100 millimetres and a height of 1,506 millimetres – places it in the automotive top tier, the D segment. The wheelbase measures 3,470 millimetres. That’s 240 millimetres more than with the long version of the new Audi A8.
It rolls on massive 26-inch wheels and features a futuristic design with a large, open glasshouse, quattro-hinting flared wheel wells, and an inverted hexagonal Singleframe grille which Audi says is a typical feature of the brand’s upcoming generation of electric cars.
Conventional headlights and lighting units are absent from both the front and rear of this car. Instead there are fully digital display surfaces comprising hundreds of triangular pixel segments. They are three-dimensional recreations of the Audi AI symbol.
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 color. The Aicon is thus no longer bound to a daytime running lights look, but rather can adapt to the driving situation and even its passengers.
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.”
Taking car-to-environment communication to the next level, the Aicon is able to support its surroundings using animations on its display surfaces to warn pedestrians or cyclists of dangerous situations. Driving modes such as platooning, urban driving or driving at a walking pace can be visualised. 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.
Expanding the sphere of environmental communication, the Audi Aicon uses projector modules to illuminate the road and surroundings in high resolution and project signals onto the ground. This enables it to communicate warnings and vehicle information to passers-by with no direct line of sight to the car.
Audi says one thing that an autonomously driving vehicle of the future definitely won’t need anymore are long-range headlights. The 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. When passengers exit the Audi Aicon in the dark, a “light companion” is activated: A mini-drone with a flashlight safely illuminates the user’s walking path.
Inside, the Aicon features a 2+2 seating arrangement, with two customisable individual front seats and a bench rear seat. Passengers can slide the front pews up to 500 millimetres back and forth between the forward and rear positions. The seats don’t slide on rails, but rather on a platform covered in high-pile carpet that can be moved longitudinally, and on which the passengers’ feet also rest. The platform height is variable, so that it can also be used as an ottoman for your legs. The pitch of the seat cushions and backrests can be steplessly adjusted for a comfortable working or resting position.
The individual seats can also be swiveled by up to 15 degrees. Turning the seats outward makes it even easier for the passengers to get in. Turning them inward makes it easier for the passengers to talk and interact.
The Aicon is also connected to the internet, allowing video calls, web surfing and browsing social media while on the move.