Audi's New Mobility Egg

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
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audi s new mobility egg

Audi’s pitching more than just new models at Auto Shanghai this month; it’s promoting a new way to drive. The AI:ME Concept is a summonable, self-driving urban electric, aimed at reshaping the company’s business model — or at least examining that possibility. While Audi refers to the vehicle as a highly specialized premium automobile that can be ordered as needed and offers “extensive possibilities for individualization as part of an on-demand offer,” the company also noted the AI:ME “need not pass into permanent personal ownership.”

The automaker was careful not to use the phrase, but these vehicles would operate under a loosely defined subscription or rental model where customers book a car via their smartphone or computer, stipulating how they need it to be configured for their journey. From there, the vehicle makes its way to the designated pickup point and applies the final adjustments based on previously established seating, climate, lighting, entertainment, and control preferences.

It’s a bespoke, premium experience that also happens to be shared. Once you or the car has driven to your destination, the car can be sent away to find another part-time companion — leaving you to re-order once it’s time to head back home.

Obviously, this vision of the future requires some speculation on Audi’s part. Even though several manufacturers have taken to embracing autonomous taxis, the necessary technologies have yet to prove themselves as truly viable.

However, Audi believes Level 4 autonomy will be sufficient to have the AI:ME pilot itself around tomorrow’s “megacities,” though you can also drive the vehicle yourself. It’s quite similar to Chevrolet’s Cruise AV in concept, just with human-focused controls that retract into the car when not needed — leaving you with the lounge-like interior that’s become extremely popular with trade show AVs.

Technical specifications are in step with Volkswagen’s first I.D. model intended for Europe. That means a 168-hp electric motor and 65.0-kWh battery pack. That should be fine, as Audi believes the vehicles will be largely confined to urban environments and heavy traffic — no doubt contributed to by droves of empty AVs.

At 169.2 inches in length, the vehicle’s overall size is slightly larger than a VW Golf. But Audi says the EV architecture allows for short overhangs and more interior volume than you would expect to find inside similarly sized internal combustion models. There’s also some pretty slick-sounding tech that may not really exist (yet).

From Audi:

The vehicle and as the communication and interaction systems are operated by means of eye tracking, voice input, and touch-sensitive fields in the door rail. They are positioned perfectly in terms of ergonomics and are normally integrated into the surface, making them invisible. The lighting is activated only when approached, and guides the user’s gaze to the functional surfaces.

There is a multifunctional, three-dimensional OLED monitor that runs below and along the entire length of the windshield and is used primarily in dialogue with eye-tracking control. Terminologically coded function menus, for example for navigation or infotainment, can be activated with the eye and then open up further levels that move from the background into the sharp view mode on the 3D monitor.

The car is also supposed to be loaded with real plants and constantly monitor occupant stress levels, incorporating intelligent algorithms that allow the Audi to “get to know the driver better and better and improve their options in a specific manner.”

Unlike the Audi AIcon Concept, which debuted in 2017, the AI:ME is not intended for production. But both cars represent the brand’s pathway toward automated driving and a serve as a place to experiment with new ideas. The AIcon was originally planned to hit Chinese streets in 2021 and, while that’s looking less likely these days, the long-term plan for Audi’s AVs remains largely unchanged. The company envisions deliverable luxury cars, without a permanent address, that can be shared between customers.

[Images: Audi]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

Consumer advocate tracking industry trends, regulation, and the bitter-sweet nature of modern automotive tech. Research focused and gut driven.

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  • Igloo Igloo on Apr 15, 2019

    Any idea what those teeth-like protrusions are at the back of the sun roof?

    • Lynchenstein Lynchenstein on Apr 15, 2019

      They're dividers so the plants in your organic herb garden don't mess with one another. It's literally a greenhouse.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Apr 15, 2019

    I seem to recall that most Ubers are used to carry drunk people or something like that. Therefore my list of proposed revisions to this vehicle starts with: 1) Wash-out interior Oh, and let's run some tests on eye-tracking with a non-sober individual.

  • Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.
  • FreedMike Many F150s I encounter are autonomously driven...and by that I mean they're driving themselves because the dips**ts at the wheel are paying attention to everything else but the road.
  • Tassos A "small car", TIM????????????This is the GLE. Have you even ever SEEN the huge thing at a dealer's??? NOT even the GLC,and Merc has TWO classes even SMALLER than the C (The A and the B, you guessed it? You must be a GENIUS!).THe E is a "MIDSIZED" crossover, NOT A SMALL ONE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, oh CLUELESS one.I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THE NONSENSE you post here every god damned day.And I BET you will never even CORRECT your NONSENSE, much less APOLOGIZE for your cluelessness and unprofessionalism.