The latest technology study from the Four Rings

As the race to full autonomy continues to heat up, Audi has been making moves. Between a variety of futuristic self-driving concepts and real-life demonstrations, the Four Ring brand has been busy in the push for robo car tech. Audi’s latest bid in this space is the Elaine concept vehicle, which recently debuted at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show promising a host of interesting features. As you might expect, the Elaine looks beyond the standard list of autonomous features present in the current crop of production luxury vehicles and imagines what’s possible in the future. As such, the Elaine promises not only uninterrupted self-driving capabilities, but also fully autonomous parking, AI-assisted navigation and comfort settings, self-directed car washing, and even driver health recommendations. What’s more, Audi says all these features could very well find their way onto its production vehicles in the years to come.

Inevitably, there will be many of you out there who feel a bit of anxiety over the prospect of a self-driving Audi. Fear not, because this thing still comes with a steering wheel and pedals, and the autonomous features will only kick in when you want them to – that is, during boring stuff like commuting and traffic jams. The rest of it looks like a helpful way to enjoy your ride, and Audi even contends that “drivers should be more relaxed when they get out of the car than when they got in.” Intrigued? Read on for the details.

Continue reading the learn more about the Audi Elaine Concept.

Hey, That “New” Concept Looks Awfully Familiar…

The Elaine Concept Puts Audi's Autonomous Ambitions On Display High Resolution Exterior
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More eagle-eyed readers out there will recognize the Elaine as the e-tron Sportback concept that Audi brought to Shanghai earlier this year. Indeed, this update brings with it the same body, electric drive, and exterior lighting as the past concept vehicle, and underlines Audi’s intentions to put the coupe-like roofline and tall SUV dimensions into production once and for all. Look for it to make a splash as Audi’s second mass-produced electric vehicle.

So What About The Exterior Styling And Interior Appointment?

The Elaine Concept Puts Audi's Autonomous Ambitions On Display High Resolution Exterior
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While curvaceous and sporty looking, the Elaine is all SUV, albeit with a coupe-like cut to the roofline. The dimensions are big, measured at 16.1 feet long, 6.5 feet wide, and 5 feet tall, with a wheelbase of 9.6 feet, all of which is quite similar to the Audi A7. Huge 23-inch wheels in a 6-spoke design sit in the corners.

Audi’s Matrix LED technology was added to the headlights and taillights, offering indicators for when the car is operating in autonomous mode. Animated lighting was also added to greet the driver when he or she exits or enters the vehicle.

The Elaine Concept Puts Audi's Autonomous Ambitions On Display High Resolution Interior
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Inside, the focus was on simplicity and elegance.

Inside, the Elaine’s focus is on offering a simple, elegant layout, with a reduction to the number of switches and hard buttons overall. Instead, the Elaine uses a variety of touchscreens for user inputs, while copious horizontal lines and a floating center console look good. Seating capacity is capped at four passenger spots, with individual seats providing the comfort. There’s also an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot for communications and media integration, with features like video conferencing for work purposes.

So What About The All-Electric Power?

The Elaine Concept Puts Audi's Autonomous Ambitions On Display High Resolution Exterior
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Audi is adamant that this thing previews an up-and-coming all-electric drive system, with one electric motor in front and two in the rear. That makes the Elaine essentially AWD, with as much as 320 kW (429 horsepower) of power on tap, up to a maximum of 370 kW (496 horsepower) in boost mode. That’s a pretty sizable chunk of go, and although the Elaine is a heavy luxury SUV, Audi predicts it’ll do the 0-to-62 mph tango in just 4.5 seconds. Battery capacity is rated at 95 kWh, with 500 km (311 miles) of range offered per charge if you stay off the long skinny pedal. Topping off the battery is both wired and inductive charging capabilities.

Autonomous Systems

The Elaine Concept Puts Audi's Autonomous Ambitions On Display High Resolution Interior
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While quick 0-to-62 mph times and 23-inch wheel designs are all well and good, the most interesting thing about the Elaine is the onboard self-driving tech. Offering both completely automated and driver assistance systems, Audi says the Elaine gets something called a zFAS controller mounted in the rear, which is equipped with a variety of AI functions that will supposedly see use in the automaker’s production vehicles over the course of the next few years.

Starting things off is standard stuff like Audi pre-sense safety features and predictive efficiency technology, plus an advanced self-driving program that will take over during boring highway driving, essentially acting as an extension of Audi’s traffic jam assist. The self-driving feature will activate between 37 mph and 80 mph, and can automatically change lanes, even overtaking slower traffic before merging back into the original lane. And yes, the driver can still take control if desired.

However, the really cool stuff is with something the brand is calling Audi AI Zones, wherein the car will connect with the surrounding infrastructure to do stuff like autonomously park. Basically, all you gotta do is pull up to curb and exit the vehicle, and the system will automatically find an empty spot on its own and park, then come back and retrieve you on demand. Alternatively, you can put the car to work by instructing it to go for a wash, pick up some packages, or gas up, all completely autonomously. Cool, right? Just download the app, put in the right settings, and watch it go.

The really cool stuff is with something called Audi AI Zones, wherein the car will connect with the surrounding infrastructure to do stuff like park, go for a wash, pick up some packages, or gas up, all completely autonomously

This isn’t some out-there sci-fi prediction – Audi really is aiming to create designated AI Zones that allow it to do all these things autonomously.

Up next is the Audi Personal Intelligent Assistant, or PIA, wherein the onboard systems pool information from the car, the driver, traffic reports, and more, then adapts itself to meet the driver’s needs. That means custom playlists for the stereo, up-to-the-minute navigation corrections, customized climate control settings, personalized Audi connect services and more, all enabled by a specialized form of machine learning.

Up next is the Audi Personal Intelligent Assistant, or PIA, wherein the onboard systems pool information to adapt and meet the driver’s needs.

Finally, there’s the Audi Fit Driver system, which will monitor the pilot’s mood via bio-indicators like heart rate, body temperature, and the like, then adjust the various systems to reduce stress and improve general health, even guiding the driver through breathing techniques.

Conclusion

The Elaine Concept Puts Audi's Autonomous Ambitions On Display High Resolution Exterior
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While there was certainly no shortage of electric autonomous vehicle concepts in Frankfurt this year, Audi’s take with the new Elaine design study stands out for a number of reasons. Not only are the ideas presented feasible on a large production scale, Audi is adamant that we will be seeing these systems (or at least some form of them) in dealers over the course of the next few years.

Whether or not Audi will be able to deliver on that promise remains to be seen, but either way, it’s an exciting thing to think about.

A car that can run errands on its own? Where do we sign?

References

Audi e-tron Sportback concept

2017 Audi e-tron Sportback Concept Exterior Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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Read our full review on the Audi e-tron Sportback concept

Press release

A familiar face – The exterior of the Audi Elaine concept car debuted just a few months ago. In May 2017, Audi presented the celebrated Audi e-tron Sportback design study and technology demonstrator at Auto Shanghai in China. The IAA debutant shares its body line, electric drive and not least its distinctive exterior lighting with the precursor to the second production electric car from Audi.

The Elaine Concept Puts Audi's Autonomous Ambitions On Display High Resolution Exterior
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23-inch wheels in a technical 6-spoke design highlight the confident presence of the SUV coupe. An exterior length of 4.90 meters (16.1 ft), a width of 1.98 meters (6.5 ft) and a height of 1.53 meters (5.0 ft) with a wheelbase of 2.93 meters (9.6 ft) position the Audi Elaine in the C segment, close to the Audi A7. The interior is bright and designed for simplicity. Functions are clearly structured, the number of control elements vastly reduced.

Expansive touchscreens below the central display, on the center console and in the door trims supply information and interact with the on-board systems. Horizontal surfaces on the dashboard and the seemingly floating center console convey a sense of open perspectives for the four passengers in their individual seats.

The concept car’s lighting technology is an innovation that is visible by both day and night. Digitally controlled Matrix LED units at the front and rear produce an excellent light yield. Minuscule Digital Matrix projectors literally make their mark on the road ahead, turning light into a versatile, dynamic channel of communication with the surroundings. Other road users can also be informed of the various driving modes, such as when the vehicle is driving autonomously. The Audi Elaine uses animated LED fields to greet passengers individually when they enter or exit the vehicle.

The Elaine Concept Puts Audi's Autonomous Ambitions On Display High Resolution Exterior
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For its drive, the Audi Elaine uses a configuration that Audi will use in future production models with all-electric drive: One electric motor on the front axle and two on the rear power all four wheels, transforming the high-performance coupé into a quattro in typical Audi style. 320 kilowatts of power – which can even reach 370 kW in the boost mode – provide a fitting level of propulsion. Elaine sprints from 0 to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) in just 4.5 seconds. With the battery’s energy content of 95 kilowatt-hours, its range is in excess of 500 kilometers (310.7 miles) (NEDC). There are two options for charging the battery: a wired fast charging function at 150 kW or wireless charging via the Audi Wireless Charging system.

automated with Audi AI

Setting the Audi Elaine apart from the Shanghai show car are numerous functions that push the envelope for piloted driving and assistance systems, and in a few years will also extend the scope of Audi AI in production models. The foundation is provided by a much more advanced zFAS controller installed in the rear.

The new generation processor has more computing power and refined sensors with even greater range and precision. The Audi Elaine can therefore serve its owner as a highway pilot, relieving the burden on the driver over extended distances. The highway pilot is an extension of the traffic jam pilot in the A8 and allows piloted driving at speeds from 60 to 130 km/h (37.3 to 80.8 mph), which in most countries is the maximum permissible speed.

When the highway pilot is active, the Audi Elaine changes lanes automatically – it can pass and then return to the original lane, for example. It can initiate, perform and complete such actions autonomously, without any involvement of the person behind the wheel. If the driver does want to intervene, they can do so spontaneously at any time.

The Elaine Concept Puts Audi's Autonomous Ambitions On Display High Resolution Exterior
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The Audi Elaine continues to support the driver after leaving the highway and multilane urban freeways behind. All of the usual driver assistance systems are on board, including the pre sense safety technologies and the predictive efficiency assistant, which can be provided with even more precise route details from the HERE navigation data.

Time savings and comfort gains

Audi is continually expanding the infotainment functions, with ever-faster internet connections making it possible to share large quantities of data during the journey.
Simultaneously, the integration of communications media in the vehicle continues to advance. They allow people to work inside the vehicle, for example, taking part in a video conference. Drivers have more time and more choice as to how they use the time aboard the vehicle. The car of the future has great potential for time savings and comfort gains. In specially designated areas called Audi AI Zones, an Audi will be able to perform a variety of tasks autonomously while the driver works or engages in leisure activities.

Audi AI Zone

The networking of the car and the infrastructure is crucial for driverless mobility. The driver parks the Audi in a designated area (the handover zone) and exits the vehicle. From there, the car drives automatically and unoccupied into a multistory parking garage offering a variety of services, such as a car wash, a package station, a gas station or a charging post. Thanks to Audi AI, the car does all of this itself. Connected with its surroundings, the intelligent Audi can even locate an unmarked parking space on the side of the road and pull precisely into it. At the desired time, the vehicle is back in the handover zone, ready for its next journey. Drivers can follow the actions of their vehicle at all times and even add new tasks using an app.

Customers of the premium brand will soon be able to save time and enjoy greater convenience in Audi AI Zones. Audi is currently developing a standard interface for a wide
variety of smart devices and is preparing web-based, vehicle-specific apps. The project is almost ready for production. The Audi Elaine will thus become an IoT device (internet of things), seamlessly and smartly integrating itself within the world of its user.

The Elaine Concept Puts Audi's Autonomous Ambitions On Display High Resolution Exterior
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Assistant and butler – PIA

The best operating concept is the one that is ideally adapted to the driver, the one that relieves him/her of as many actions as possible and that autonomously carries out routine operational inputs. PIA, the personal intelligent assistant, follows precisely this principle. Using artificial intelligence methods, PIA combines data intelligently with one another – data from the car, data about the driver, traffic jam reports and traffic projections, as well as information from the internet. PIA also responds to voice inputs and uses tailored algorithms to communicate autonomously and adaptively with the user.

PIA gets to know the driver by observing their behavior patterns. This opens it up to use for a broad range of applications: navigation, selection of music, selection of the desired Audi connect service, climate control, suggestion of a parking space or maintaining the regular asistance to vehicles ahead on the highway. PIA applies machine learning methods to gain insights and adapts the car’s functions to the behaviors and needs of the driver. It also makes active recommendations.

A server in the secure Audi cloud hosts and processes the PIA data. Customers can view and manage this data at any time via their myAudi account. They can delete or edit this data, for instance in the case of a move. What’s more, they can be automatically transferred to other cars. The car identifies the individual user, loads their user profile, and PIA then adapts the car and its interactive behavior accordingly.

Car-to-X technology

See more than with the human eye or the infra-red camera – Car-to-X technology expands the horizon of the established vehicle sensors based on radars, cameras and ultrasound, by supplementing these with information obtained from far away and outside of the field of vision of the driver. Car-to-X, the real-time communication between cars and with the infrastructure, offers greater safety, comfort and efficiency. In this way, the car recognizes dangerous situations even earlier and accidents can be avoided.

Audi Fit Driver

Every Audi today already is equipped with the latest technology and offers top-level comfort and safety. As a private place of retreat and all-round networked space, a car is an ideal place for monitoring fitness levels and can also actively improve the health and well-being of the driver. Projects like Audi Fit Driver make the Audi Elaine concept vehicle an empathetic companion. In many situations, it knows what the driver needs. A wearable device on the driver’s wrist provides the data. It collects and transmits information about the most important vital signs, such as body temperature and heart rate.

If Audi Fit Driver detects increased stress or fatigue, for example, the vehicle systems adapt themselves accordingly in a relaxing, a vitalizing or a protective manner. Thanks to intelligent algorithms, the system gets to know the driver better and better.

The Elaine Concept Puts Audi's Autonomous Ambitions On Display High Resolution Exterior
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With Audi Fit Driver, driver can for the first time actively reduce stress and improve their concentration. If the system notices that the driver is highly stressed, this can be reduced by means of a special breathing technique. The Audi virtual cockpit displays bio-feedback like that used in performance sports as a guide. Additionally, a voice over the loudspeakers guides the driver through the exercise. Whether it be relaxing breathing exercises, energizing seat massage functions to the beat of the music, special climate control functions, adaptive infotainment measures or perfectly-suited interior lighting moods: The objective of Audi Fit Driver is a driving experience optimally tuned to the driver’s condition. Drivers should be more relaxed when they get out of the car than when they got in.

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