When AI is not Artificial Intelligence but Audi Intelligence
Audi gave us a peek into the future of motoring at the Frankfurt Motor Show, with the AI: Trail concept car. But it wasn't just this all-terrain dream machine that Audi has up its sleeve.
An endless trip on the highway, a joyride on a curvy stretch of road, a hectic drive through urban traffic, a day trip out into nature. Four situations. Four solutions. Four concept cars. After all, these special use cases were the foundation for the entire design of the concept cars.
Electric mobility, autonomous driving, intelligent lighting design and car-to-car communication — the many possibilities of modern technology and the freedom they offer drivers are reflected in the design of the concept cars.
And the passengers are the focal point of the design — as a result of the vision of autonomous driving. In series vehicles, on the other hand, the driver and his needs are usually the designer’s main concern.
This is how Marc Lichte, Head of Design at Audi, explains the approach: “With the four show cars, we are giving our future customers access to mobility that is tailor-made to fit their needs. Our design philosophy is based on the use of aesthetic intelligence — the symbiosis of innovative technology and progressive design — to create personal space for the customers.”
That’s also where the series’ name “AI” comes from. But in this case, AI stands for Audi Intelligence. The entirety of the company’s technological expertise is united in the four concept cars.
“In the classical product portfolio, the vehicles often need to accommodate many different needs, which causes compromises. We took a radical approach with these show cars and designed user-centered vehicles for individual needs.
And we always keep our goal in mind: to give the customer more freedom and space,” explains Claus Potthoff, Head of Design Strategy at Audi. For this reason, the designers of all four-vehicle worked from the inside out, to give the user the greatest possible personal space.
The 4 Audi concept cars are part of Audi’s unique holistic mobility concept — access to mobility that is customised to meet the user’s particular needs. Each of these four visionary vehicles fulfills a specific objective.
1. Concept car Audi AI:CON – comfort and space for long distances
Long-distance comfort — that could be the motto of the AI:CON. The concept car is designed with the driver’s freedom as the highest priority. And that starts with the interior design. The large, comfortable seating area invites passengers to take a seat in the AI:CON.
And they’ll immediately notice that the interior is designed entirely for autonomous driving. What does that mean? Steering wheel, pedals, dashboard buttons — all missing. Instead: wide, minimalistic surfaces.
The passengers can lean back, relax, watch a movie, or surf the internet. There’s plenty of storage room for luggage — in front as well as in the back. The Audi AI:COM opens up a new world of mobility for its customers.
2. Concept car Audi AI:RACE – off to the races
The AI:RACE is the opposite of the AI:CON. The high-performance sports car is designed for an optimal driving experience. Only the driver can put the pedal to the metal — no one wants to (or should) let this car drive itself.
The highlight: the driver's seat can be positioned in the middle of the interior — for a motorsports experience just like in a real racing car. But there’s room for a passenger too, of course, when the driver’s seat is positioned to the side.
The exterior design echoes the architecture of a mid-engine sports car with a cabin that is positioned far forward on the chassis. The car is only 1.15 meters tall and can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in just over 2 seconds. But, unlike other sports cars, the AI:RACE features 470 litres of luggage space — thanks to the space-saving electric engine.
3. Concept car Audi AI:ME – a feel-good oasis for urban traffic
The AI:ME builds a bridge between a driver-controlled and self-driving car. In the city, many customers prefer to drive themselves as long as there is no traffic, but are happy to hand over the wheel for rush hour. Uniting these two worlds was the greatest challenge for the designers.
This is how they solved it: “When the passenger switches to self-driving mode, the steering wheel folds down and a table folds out. The passenger should experience the AI:ME as an oasis of calm that provides an escape from the stress and noise of daily life.
That’s why the design process was primarily focused on the interior of the car. Temperature, ambient lighting, seat positioning: The car adjusts itself to suit the user’s preferences as soon as he gets in.
4. Concept car Audi AI:TRAIL – experience nature off-road
The fourth and latest concept car might well be the most radical design study. The car is designed to reflect its usage case: off-road driving. It’s a situation that lets the user experience nature up close and helps him slow down in a hectic word.
The car’s dome offers a nearly 360-degree view, and the off-roader is equipped with five drones that are part of its revolutionary lighting design. They can fly out ahead in different formations to perfectly light the way — or use their cameras to gather information about the path ahead.
The interior design is purpose-built for the outdoors. Instead of a rear row of seats, passengers will find two hanging chairs that they can remove and take with them when they exit the car. That’s what makes the AI:TRAIL special: the concept car accompanies passengers even outside of the car.