Audi AI:ME all-electric city car 15 | 04 | 2019

    AUDI HAS GIVEN us glimpse into how it sees the future of urban transport by revealing a new compact city car concept called the Audi AI:ME. And the reality is, the concept — labelled an autonomous, shared-on-demand city car — is likely to make it to full production; though initially not necessarily as extreme as the concept. (Related: New Audi Q4 e-tron concept)

    Using the Shanghai Motor Show as a platform, Audi confirmed the wheelbase is 2770mm long, the same as the recently revealed Q4 e-tron, which will appear in showrooms next year. It’s the largest hint yet that the AI:ME will enter production. A fact further backed by Audi confirming the all-electric car will be powered by an electric motor on the rear axle developing 168bhp. (Related: Audi e-tron available to order)


    There are, as you would expect, similarities from other VW Group all-electric concepts, including the VW ID and Seat el-Born. But it’s probably important to stress the ‘production’ version of the AI:ME will look rather different, as the concept falls into Audi’s family of futuristic show cars known as ‘vision’ concepts.


    With an exterior length of 4300mm and a width of 1900mm, the Audi AI:ME takes up no more road space than a present-day compact car. However, the wheelbase of 2770mm and the height of 1520mm indicate interior dimensions that are more likely to be found in the next higher class. (Related: Audi unleashes updated 395bhp TT RS)


    Designers have pushed each wheel into the corner of the car to maximise interior space. And there’s no denying the concept’s profile — most notably at the rear — is reminiscent of Audi’s iconic A2 (above); though the company says the resemblance is unintentional.


    Audi describes the AI:ME as “a 2 plus-x-seater”. Its layout relies on a variety of configurations for seat positions and stowage space. While only the individual seats at the front will be used during most journeys, the car offers space for up to four people in the front and on the rear bench if necessary.

    And while the concept may be classed as a “small car”, it doesn’t skimp on luxury, with a mixture of wood, textiles and mineral composites, such as Corian used in the bright and airy interior.


    A full-length glass roof and large windows help maximise the light. And the designers have even gone as far as including a real, living plant in the cabin; Audi claims it “gives occupants a feeling of proximity to nature and helps to objectively improve air quality in the automobile at the same time”.


    The AI:ME has also been designed with Level 4 autonomy in mind. This is the second-highest level on a standardised international scale for increasing automation. Although systems with level 4 do not require any assistance on the part of the driver, their function is limited to a specific area, such as highways or a specially equipped area in inner cities.


    In these places, the driver can completely transfer the task of driving to the system. The driver needs to resume the task only when the car leaves the area defined for fully automated driving.

    Rather unnervingly — at least in relation to current driving requirements — the steering wheel can fully retract into the dashboard to leave the driver with a small open-pore wooden table. And bizarrely, magnetised areas hold metal plates and cups, so those riding in the AI:ME can enjoy a meal.


    The front seats are inspired by the classic lounge chair and feature a wide, comfortably cushioned seat, upholstered with textile material in warm shades of grey. The backrests are designed as curved shells that are attached to the seat cushion only with a vertical carrier. When the pedal set is not needed, drivers can rest their feet on the supports under the dashboard, such as on an ottoman. On the rear bench, which reaches around to the side sections of the car, occupants can vary their seating position almost any way they like.


    As to the future? Audi believes the AI:ME will simply be hailed through a smartphone app. And not only will customers be able to pre-set configurations such as the layout of the seats — with two or more seats, and even a child seat, as required — and the interior temperature, but even the colour of the car.


    After the Audi AIcon, which debuted at the Frankfurt International Motor Show in 2017, and the radical Audi PB 18 sports car, which was introduced in the summer of 2018, the Audi AI:ME is now the brand’s third vision vehicle to present an offer for use in clearly defined areas.


    While the Audi AIcon offers the qualities of a business jet for long-distance drives, the PB 18 is a vehicle for the occasional trip to the race track. The Audi AI:ME is the perfect companion for use in conurbations. A fourth vision vehicle will complete the concept quartet at Frankfurt in September 2019.

    Related: Audi ditches diesel from TT range

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    Jim McGill


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