Audi’s looking ahead to the what its vehicles will look like once true self-driving technology is available and on the roads with the Aicon, a new concept vehicle it’s debuting at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany. The Aicon ditches the steering wheel and pedals in favor of a design aimed at luxury and comfort, with a four-door, 2 by 2 seating design that can be quickly changed up depending on how many people are riding and whether they want to stretch out.
The purely electric Aicon also has an ambitious range from its big battery – nearly 500 miles on one charge, which would make it one hell of a robotic ride sharing car.
What might be most interesting about the Audi Aicon is how much it still looks like an aggressively-styled performance automobile, rather than something you’d create just to optimize for use of interior space or transportation practicality. It has 26-inch wheels, housed with flared fenders, and a long, low body that conveys a sense of forward motion.
Clearly, Audi thinks performance will still be important to those using cars even when they’re no longer driving them. The user experience will also be key, of course, and Audi has some interesting innovations there with the Aicon, too, including a companion drone that comes with the car, and a built-in “empathetic electronic vehicle assistant.”
That assistant, called “PIA,” can recognize riders by their phone and then tweak vehicle settings to their custom specifications, including things like cabin comforts, lighting and seating position. It also responds to voice commands for things like navigation destination and entertainment.
The included drone has a built-in flashlight and is called a “light companion,” designed primarily for lighting a user’s path as they enter and exit the vehicle at night. The car does away with long-range headlights for nighttime driving, relying instead on its autonomous sensor suite to navigate dark driving conditions.
For conveying its presence to others, however, it has projector modules that can display signs on the ground around. For those inside, it can display media either on its interior screens, or even on the windshield as a heads-up viewing area for movies or whatever you’re working on.
This concept is maybe one of the more fully fleshed out visions of what a truly autonomous long-range car would look like in practice. It’s still obviously quite a ways off from actually becoming a reality, but this is definitely the direction automakers are thinking.