The Audi Aicon concept – an autonomous car that’s “on course for the future” – imagines an open-ended future where battery technology has advanced enough to double the range of current EVs, and the technology to support it has advanced enough so that, Audi claims, it will never crash.
Penned as a stretched 2+2 four-door optimised for ferrying people around, and halfway between a partially melted Audi A6 sedan and the new A8 limousine that will make its public debut beside it tomorrow, the Aicon “boldly leaps ahead to show the exterior and interior design of the next decades”. It also introduces the innovations that a battery-fuelled design can permit, including the “drivetrain, suspension, digitalisation, and sustainability in a visionary manner”.
But its purpose, it seems, is only as a taxi, meaning that instead of owning an Aicon, you’ll just rent it by the kilometre. “As a mobility concept, the Audi Aicon shows the world of tomorrow, in which the advantages of door-to-door individual transportation are combined with the luxurious ambiance of a first-class airline cabin,” Audi said. “A cabin with no steering wheel or pedals that can thus offer all the comforts of modern communications electronics and perfect ergonomics – simply first-class.”
“In contrast to a robot taxi, which is reduced to pure functionality, the autonomous Audi Aicon concept vehicle pulls out all the stops,” it said. “Its presence is impossible to ignore, and its exterior hints at the spacious comfort afforded the passengers and the upscale technical aspirations. The Audi Aicon is a sneak peak at a prestigious automobile of tomorrow that stirs the desires of demanding customers.”
Note customers, not owners. There you go.
The design, sitting on 26-inch wheels that hint at Audi looking to move to tyres with an in-line footprint rather than a transverse one, pushes the envelope, featuring what Audi claims is a world-first “distinct edge” running along the glass all the way back to the D-pillar. “This line emphasizes the car’s length and effectively reduces the apparent volume of the cabin relative to the overall body,” it said. “The darkened side sills rise subtly toward the rear, making it seem like the car is ducking.”
There are no headlights or tail-lamps; instead parts of the car’s surface are covered in tiny pixels that glow when needed to provide illumination. It’s also meant for dense urban areas, with the Aicon using its skin to show pedestrians what its next move is likely to be.
Inside, there’s a two-seater bench down the rear and two individual seats up the front that can move around up to half a metres. The front pews also have an ottoman.
It won’t have seatbelts. “Accidents will also be a thing of the past thanks to the highly advanced sensor systems and networking,” Audi said. “Passengers in an automobile like the Audi Aicon will therefore no longer need classic restraint systems. They will also experience a physical sense of freedom during their journey that in 2017 still appears visionary.”
Powering the Aicon are wheel-mounted electric motors producing a combined 260kW/ 550Nm. And despite its length, all-wheel steering means the electric bubble can turn around in 8.5 metres.
“The Audi Aicon is an all-rounder well prepared for its primary task: to offer a maximum of comfort, communications technology and freedom for its occupants during a long journey,” Audi said. “It combines the scopes for autonomous driving in an urban environment and on the highway with an unprecedented range for an electric drive. The Aicon will be followed by further multitalented Audi models, each with their own specialized discipline, ensuring that the vehicle range of the brand with the four rings remains as diverse as it is fascinating.”