Audi AI:ME concept demonstrates innovative safety through lights

The Audi AI:ME is a concept for future urban travel. The little car is autonomous, has a surprisingly spacious interior and it’s equipped with a host of exterior lights designed to better communicate with the outside world. No, really. There are lights everywhere.

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The idea is to surround the vehicle with multi-purpose lights. The front and rear fenders feature an array of lights along their shoulders. You see, this concept is a self-driving vehicle, and the lights demonstrate a possible solution to help autonomous cars communicate with humans.

Often, when driving, human drivers communicate through split-second glances and waves of the hand. That’s not possible when the computer is driving the vehicle. These arrays of lights could indicate greater detail about the vehicle’s intentions outside of standard blinkers. Their size and design would make them hard to miss even by someone staring at a smartphone.

The fender lights are situated in a way that makes them more visible to those looking down at them — think bikers and pedestrians. Meanwhile, the traditional blinkers are designed to be viewed head-on as if from another vehicle.

Sadly, Audi was unable to demonstrate this system in the demo. Does it work? I’m not sure, but it’s worth mentioning as a practical solution to a future problem.

The AI:ME has a spacious interior. There isn’t a small car on the market with this much space inside. The concept has an utterly hollow interior, but the production version, if it goes into production, would be equipped with airbags, sound deadening and all sorts of bits missing from this one-off demo vehicle.

Once engaged in autonomous mode, the steering wheel retracts into the dash, and a large wood dash extends for use by the driver. The idea, Audi says, is to give the rider a place for their computer or book or whatever. After all, the vehicle is doing the driving, and they’re just there for the ride.

Or the driver could use the VR system. The Audi AI:ME is equipped with Holoride’s impressive in-vehicle VR system that matches the vehicle’s movements with custom content on the headset. If the car turns right, the content on the VR headset veers right, too, matching the dynamics correctly.

Holoride launched last year at CES. I was impressed in 2019 with the initial demo, and it’s impressive here again. Holoride’s VR solution is designed mainly for passengers, and this demo shows a future where, perhaps, a driver puts his full trust in a computer and spends a few hours playing VR games while sitting in traffic.

There are no plans to produce the AI:ME. It’s a concept vehicle designed to showcase potential technology and design. The AI:ME is part of Audi’s four-piece concept family that also includes the luxurious Aicon, the sporty AI:RACE and the rugged AI:Trail.

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