Audi has unveiled the AIcon concept car at the Frankfurt motor show. Both a design study and technology demonstrator, the four-door mobility concept envisions an autonomous Audi of the future – with no steering wheel or pedals.
The car is designed for purely electric operation and Audi claims it can cover distances between 435 and 497 miles on a single charge – and employing a high-voltage system with 800 volts, the AIcon’s battery unit can be charged to 80 per cent of capacity in less than 30 minutes.
The car’s axle and drive units are symmetrical, i.e. identical at the front and rear. Mechanical components, such as the steering shaft or steering hydraulics, have been eliminated and the car is therefore equipped with a complete all-wheel steering system, with an electric motor driving each wheel. In unison, the four motors produce a total of 260 kW and 405.7 lb-ft of torque.
On the outside, sitting on giant 26-inch wheels, the car measures 5,444 mm long, 2,100 mm wide and 1,506 mm tall, which places it in the automotive top tier, the D segment. However, despite its long wheelbase of nearly 3.47 metres, which is 240 mm more than with the long version of the new Audi A8, the car manages a turning radius of 8.50 metres, or 27.9 ft, which is below that of some small cars.
The central element of the exterior is the cabin. Large glass surfaces at the front and rear as well as the convex side windows are designed to create a brightened interior for the passengers, while a distinct edge that runs as a hard line along the side window surfaces back to the D-pillar is claimed to be a first in automotive design.
As with the e-tron Sportback concept, the AIcon’s front also gets an inverted hexagonal “Singleframe”, which the German manufacturer says will be a standard styling feature on its upcoming generation of electric cars.
The car’s most stand-out feature though are the digital display surfaces that have been used to replace the conventional lighting units at both the front and back. Featuring large light fields made up of hundreds of tiny, triangular 3D pixels, these surfaces can display all kinds of dynamic graphics and animations – and in any colour.
For example, horizontally cut lighting segments to the left and right of the front grille look like eyes and can be expanded to resemble wide pupils or squinted for an aggressive look. If the car detects passers-by or other road users, it literally makes eye contact with them and then follows them with its “eyes”. The display surfaces can further warn pedestrians or cyclists of dangerous situations.
The car’s interior, meanwhile, features a fixed two-seat bench at the rear and two individual seats up front. The latter can be shifted by up to 50 cm and can also be swivelled by up to 15 degrees.
However, there is no steering wheel, or pedals, or instruments or any kind of buttons – nothing. Instead, the dashboard is replaced by a central display located under the windshield, below which is a wrap-around shelf. A curved armrest also follows along the doors, rising slightly from back to front.