Audi CEO Rupert Stadler has revealed that a fleet of autonomous cars will enter production in 2021 based on the Audi Aicon concept, one of two AI-equipped concepts revealed at the Frankfurt motor show last year.
It's not yet confirmed how many of the cars will be made, but as a pilot project, volumes are unlikely to break three-figures. The project, which coincides with the year Audi's 'vorsprung durch Technik' phrase turns 50, will put the Aicon (the less SUV-like of the two concepts) to the test, although it's not yet known if the project will be public, or an internal Audi affair.
The brand revealed how recent advances in artificial intelligence are already shaping its vision for the car of tomorrow with the unveiling of two high-tech mobility concepts, the Elaine and Aicon.
Made public on the eve of the 2017 Frankfurt motor show, the electric-powered Elaine SUV and Aicon saloon have been created to showcase technologies being developed by Audi for inclusion on upcoming production models while providing clues to how driverless cars may look in the future.
Styled at Audi’s main design studio in Ingolstadt under design boss Marc Lichte, the two highly automated concepts are described as the most advanced ever undertaken by the German car maker with assistant systems that draw on artificial intelligence, the latest in machine learning and car-to-x communication technology to network them with infrastructure and other road users, in the process allowing occupants greater freedom and time for themselves by providing fully autonomous driving functions.
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," it said. "Artificial intelligence will relieve strain and offer new possibilities to use the time spent in the car.”
The Elaine has been conceived to show how artificial intelligence technology will influence the next generation of Audi models with Level 4 autonomous driving technology. It includes a remote parking function that allows the driver to step out and watch as it parks itself in a multi-storey garage or positions itself in parking bays for recharging of its battery.
The Aicon looks further in the future with an interior devoid of a traditional cockpit, steering wheel and pedals to create a luxurious lounge-like environment offering the very latest in digital infotainment and communication solutions. It 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 and is claimed to provide the best hints yet to Audi’s second series-electric model due out in 2019. At 4900mm in length, 1980mm in width and 1530mm high, it is 237mm longer, 87mm wider and 129mm lower than the recently introduced second-generation Q5. It also uses a wheelbase that is 111mm longer than that of Audi’s popular mid-range SUV, at 2930mm.