The introduction of the fourth generation Audi A8 marked the coming of the world’s first commercially-available Level 3 autonomous driving vehicle. A vehicle that drivers can rely on for its self-driving capabilities in traffic jams. At the Frankfurt Auto Show, the German carmaker takes it several notches higher with its premium Aicon concept car. The Aicon glides in at Level 5 – a fully autonomous car. And here’s a real shocker: you can’t drive the car. Because it doesn’t come with a steering wheel nor pedals. Instead, it drives you. Let’s take a moment to take that in..alright, continue.
Expectedly, the Aicon is the result of many vigorous self-driving tests Audi has conducted. A car with no use of a steering wheel and pedals is what Audi calls “the beginning of driverless cars.” The concept showcases Audi’s vision of the future of mobility, and gives us a glimpse of what future Audi vehicles will be packaged.
Full electric power
First of all, power figures. Audi’s have always produced cars with plenty of punch. In the 2+2 Aicon the numbers are no less impressive. Four electric motors are present, with one motor on each wheel. Combining all four wheels, it produces 349bhp and 550Nm of torque.
At the Volkswagen IAA 2017 Preview Night, Rupert Stadler, chairman of the board of management, Audi AG, said that by 2025, one in every three Audi cars will be electric. With new battery technology, the next generation of electric cars will be capable of 700-800kms mileage on a single charge.
When it comes to braking, the Aicon does most of it through energy recuperation. To achieve this, the disc brakes are located nearer to the electric motors rather than closer to the wheels. It results in a reduction of added mass and removes the need for air cooling at the wheels, creating more wind turbulence and drag helping the car to slow down when needed.
Using an all-electric system means that the Aicon also has an incredible turning radius at just 8.5 metres with four wheel steer, which in comparison is tighter than most small city cars.
The Aicon is a large car. It measures 5,444mm and to put that in comparison, the extended-wheelbase Audi A8L is 200mm shorter than the overall length of Aicon itself. So you can get a sense of how large the concept is. In terms of design, the Aicon has a inverted hexagonal grille at the front which is a design cue that will be repeated on future electric production cars.
Also unique to the Aicon is the omission of conventional headlights. Audi claims that the use of various sensors and autonomous technology will supercede traditional dual road-lighting beams. In its place is a set of “eyes” which enables interaction with pedestrians and other road users. But, not all roads are well lit. So, the Aicon utilises a projector that shines light on the road when needed. The projector is further used to signal oncoming cars and pedestrians if they don’t notice the car.
A mobile sociable space
The Aicon further aids users by dispatching a drone that lights up the path when walking away from the car. This happens when the car senses that additional lighting is required to aid the user. The concept features ‘suicide’ doors at the rear and has no B-pillar. This makes ingress and egress pretty much a doddle. When inside, users are greeted with a pair of rear seats that are integrated into the rear bench. The seats in front can be swivelled up to 15 degrees, facing either the outside of the car for easier entry and exit, or facing the inside for a sociable space and users can engage in conversations.
Look ma, no hands
Back to the shocker of the Aicon. Having neither a steering wheel or pedals means that the dashboard is completely flushed and wraps around the entire cabin. Upon entering the car, users will be greeted with a panel that lights up and the Personal Intelligent Assistant or PIA will recognise the user by their smartphones, and will automatically load their personal settings. The touch sensitive panel that wraps around the sides and the fascia of the cabin enables users to control the climate settings as well as the seat positioning. Additionally, it uses voice commands and eye tracking to adjust the comfort of the user.
As a concept, you wouldn’t expect to see a large boot. But the Aicon changes that with a large 660-litre boot. This is also Audi’s presentation of packaging for future electric cars where less mechanical components are needed.
Thanks to Audi, the future of mobility and the promise of fully autonomous cars isn’t too far away.
What do you think of the Audi Aicon?
Check out more cool stuff from IAA 2017:
- IAA 2017: Top 8 best cars at the Frankfurt Auto Show
- IAA 2017: Best concept cars at the Frankfurt Auto Show
Image credit: Audi AG
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