An autonomous urban commuter from the future

Audi revealed the AI:me concept at the 2019 Shanghai Auto Show, and it clearly gives a preview of what our future will look like. Audi has been on an electric vehicle onslaught, and this concept shows one of the many facets that the company is capable of. Audi’s creation prior to the AI:me, the Q4 e-tron EV, looks like it could be ’production-ized’ soon. But with the AI:me, Audi aims to show what an urban, electric autonomous car could look like in a couple of decades from now.

Overview

Audi Looks To Our Autonomous EV Future With Aicon Concept High Resolution Exterior
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The AI:me looks radically different from the current crop of the Audi vehicles, save for the hexagonal grille and the swept-back headlamps. The AI:me reminds you of the Audi A2 that sold in Europe from 1999 to 2005. Although the basic outline and the silhouette matches that of the A2, nothing else here bears contemporary or conventional looks. Pronounced as "Amy," the AI:me plans to conquer megacities with a comfortable, compact car that’s easy to drive (be driven too!), easy to park, and easy to maintain.

The biggest takeaway is that this autonomous Audi compact car has maximized space inside while maintaining the small footprint, thus proving its worth as the next megacity car.

Audi’s connection with Shanghai and autonomous cars dates back to 2015. In May that year, an automated Audi A7 drove in the dense urban traffic of Shanghai in a highly complex situation. Two years later, Audi showcased its first set of AI-moniker’d cars at the 2017 Frankfurt Auto Show. The concepts showed how advances in artificial intelligence and autonomy will shape the brand’s exterior and interior design.

The Elaine Concept Puts Audi's Autonomous Ambitions On Display High Resolution Exterior
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Audi has been incorporating ’AI’ to its studies that are, generally, quite wild and radical in nature. We saw the Elaine - a smarter iteration of the Audi Sportback concept.

The Elaine produced a combined output of 429 horses generated out of three electric motors.

Hit the special mode to unveil 67 addition horses that takes the car to 62 mph from a standstill in 4.5 seconds. Audi is aiming for a 310-mile range for the Elaine, and it will feature a Level 4 autonomous driving system. Another concept is the Aicon. It grabbed everyone’s attention because of its steering-free design and Audi’s claim of a 500-mile range on a single charge. The front and rear will basically be digital display boards that can convey different messages and communicate with pedestrians. And, now, we have the third car with an AI prefixed in its name that, like the other two cars mentioned here, remains a far-fetched thought for now.

2019 Audi AI:ME Concept Exterior

  • Sloping Roofline in the Front
  • LEDs embossed in the mesh grille clusters
  • Grille looks unmistakably Audi
  • Massive Wheelbase
  • Invisible wing mirrors and door handles
  • Missing B-pillar
  • Body crease passes through the windows
2019 Audi AI:ME Concept
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The Audi AI:me’s sloping front windshield looks like a person who has his hair gelled all the way back in a very clean manner.

The signature-Audi grille design dominates the front. It is obviously fully covered unlike the combustion engine cars.

The sweptback headlamps are located in a mesh grille that has LED lights embedded into it. We saw a similar setup in the GFG Style Kangaroo as well. The recessed area in the bumper houses two air vents to pass cool air to the batteries.

The side profile looks slightly odd because of the long wheelbase. The designers have pushed the wheels to the extreme ends to accommodate as much space possible inside the cabin. The cliched full plate alloys find their place in the low profile tires. A crease flowing from hood and across the A-pillar, breaches into the side windows, giving a boomerang look. Although the design looks great, you sure as hell cannot slide your windows down. It must also be noted that there are no wing mirrors, and we can’t see the cameras either. Even door handles are missing. Perhaps, they sit flush with the body. Audi has also eradicated the B-pillar in the AI:me. Well, that’s the kind of freedom a study design lets you explore.

2019 Audi AI:ME Concept
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The rear looks short and stout. The squat position is exaggerated all the more, thanks to the flared wheel arches and black plastic cladding at the bottom. A fake skid plate wears the ’e-tron’ moniker. Two large air vents on either corner are connected by a large flank that is almost as big as the windshield itself. The sleek LED taillights, along with an enlightened Audi logo, sit in the windshield.

A spoiler at the top sits there unnoticed, but adds a lot of character to the AI:me's derriere.

Despite having quirkiness written all over it, the back of the AI:me looks swell; something that will please a majority of people.

2019 Audi AI:ME Concept exterior dimensions

Length 4.3 meters
Width 1.9 meters
Wheelbase 2.77 meters
Height 1.52 meters

2019 Audi AI:ME Concept Interior

  • Retractable U-shaped Steering
  • OLED Display replaces Instrument Cluster and Infotainment System
  • Audi has provided VR Goggles
  • Vegetation in the Roof!
  • Cryptic Wordings On The Dash
2019 Audi AI:ME Concept
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As expected from a concept, the cabin is not something we see in modern production cars. Although Audi claims it to be an autonomous car, the AI:me still boasts a U-shaped steering wheel; not a wheel exactly. Wondering why? This is because the AI:me comes with level four autonomous technology, meaning it doesn’t drive itself all the time.

The driver has the luxury of pushing the retractable steering back into the column when they want to be driven around.

I wonder what will happen to chauffeurs when such cars become mainstream! Like we mentioned before, the wheels have been pushed to the ends which makes the cabin a lot more spacious than what we have seen in conventional cars of the same size.

2019 Audi AI:ME Concept
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As expected, there are no buttons, knobs, or stalks in here. Instead, all of them have been replaced by touch-sensitive surfaces. The instrument cluster and infotainment system are replaced by a full-width, three-dimensional OLED display. Audi has also placed on-board virtual reality goggles that let the passengers watch a movie, surf the internet, or play games. We saw this feature when the German automaker previewed in at the 2019 CES. In fact, the infotainment system can be controlled via eye-tracking or voice-recognition technologies. Since not all passengers will look to chill all the time, the cabin can also be turned ousted from the outside world via an active noise control that that lets you work in peace. While we think this is a little too much, Audi justifies it by saying that people spend the third highest time in a car, after home and workplace, so it needs to offer all the comforts a passenger can ask for.

2019 Audi AI:ME Concept
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While the cabin feels all tech-friendly, Audi has used natural materials like wood, walnut trims, etc. to keep you in touch with the real world and reduce the technology overdose.

Audi has also literally added a mini garden on the roof that helps keep the air fresh inside the cabin! Are you kiddin' me right now?

The German automaker has gone berserk with the ’positive life’ theme for some reason. Zoom in a little into the pictures and you will notice a few words mentioned on the dash, like "Discover," "Moment" and "Well Being." Why are they even mentioned there? Is this Audi’s vision moving forward?

2019 Audi AI:ME Concept Drivetrain

  • Based on Volkswagen’s MEB Platform
  • Single Electric Motor
  • Power Sent To The Rear Wheels
  • 170 Horsepower
  • 65 kWh Battery
2019 Audi AI:ME Concept
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The AI:me is powered by a 125-kW electric motor mounted over the rear axle that churns out 170 ponies. Power is sent to the rear wheels.

The concept comes packed with a 65-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that is positioned right under the passenger compartment.

It is built on the VW family’s much adored and adopted MEB architecture. Audi has still not announced the official range quote for this concept car. Since Audi is pushing this as an urban commuter, the automaker said that the AI:me primarily operates between 12 and 44 mph. So, who cares about the performance specs anyway. Not that you will take it to Nurburgring, will you?

The Audi AI:me comes with a Level 4 autonomy. This means it can handle itself in on highways and areas that have been mapped by the system, but will require human intervention at times. While this is quite relaxed for drivers, the ultimate goal remains Level 5 autonomy where the car won’t require human intervention on any level. But the infrastructure for the same is still long, long away.

2019 Audi AI:ME Concept
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Audi AI:ME Concept drivetrain specifications

Engine rear-mounted electric motor
Battery 65-kWh
Horsepower 170 HP

Final Thoughts

2019 Audi AI:ME Concept
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Honestly, the AI:me looks very much like a pod and we are a little skeptical about a future where city cars will look like this one. Don’t expect this pod to be put into production. Audi has just envisioned what the future could look like from its point-of-view. If Audi is right, it will be quite intriguing to see things like a roof-top garden, a steering wheel housing that could be converted into a table, and a center armrest that would rise from the floor and turn into a writing desk!

  • Leave it
    • Roof-top vegetation sounds creepy for some reason
    • A table to cut fruits in the car?
    • The future looks unpromising for enthusiasts like us

Further reading

Audi Looks To Our Autonomous EV Future With Aicon Concept High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2017 Audi Aicon Concept.

The Elaine Concept Puts Audi's Autonomous Ambitions On Display High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2017 Audi Elaine.

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