Audi has taken the wraps off two autonomous cars. One is the Audi Elaine concept, an evolution of the E-Tron Sportback shown at the Auto Shanghai in April this year. The other one is the Aicon concept. The Elaine and Aicon represent Audi's version of the highest levels of autonomous driving technologies possible - Level 4 and Level 5 - respectively.
There are five levels of autonomous cars.
On the outside, the Elaine concept looks very much like the E-Tron Sportback concept but has grown closer to becoming a production car now. Yes, the Elaine will spawn the second all-new all-electric car from Audi to be launched in the near future. For now, the design is still very close to one of a concept: futuristic Matrix LED lights placed up front and at the rear are noticeable at day and night. Also, there are small digital projectors which can project messages if required to interact with other road users.
Inside, the Elaine is a showcase of what future car interiors may look like: space-age like simple, but with heavy digitisation and expansive interior space. Even the door trims have digital screens through which passengers can interact with the car!
The Elaine concept may be previewing the powertrain to be used by many all-electric Audis of the near future: a single motor for the front axle and two motors on the rear axle with a combined power output of 435PS (or 503PS in boost mode) paired to a 95kWh battery pack. While the 4.9-metre long Elaine can zoom from 0-100kmph in 4.5 seconds, it also has a claimed range 'in-excess' of 500km! Audi also claims that the three-motor layout will replace their signature quattro AWD system effectively.
Audi is highlighting the 'Audi AI' technology which will feature in its future cars. In the Elaine, this allows the car to drive autonomously in the city and also on the highway at speeds of up to 130kmph without any intervention. The Elaine can even overtake slower cars by itself! It can also automatically select the best route for a particular journey by checking real time traffic status on HERE maps.
With Car-to-X technologies, the Audi Elaine can interact with intelligent infrastructure. This can help avoid delays and potentially avoid accidents as everything on and around the road is interacting with each other. The Elaine can spot situations beyond a person's field of view thanks to an array of radars, cameras and machine communication technology.
The car can take over the mundane day to day tasks of the driver. If left in designated spots (called the Audi AI Zone) in a future-ready city/town, the Elaine can park itself, find the nearest charging station and recharge itself, get itself cleaned at a car wash or even pick up your shopping!
A Personal Intelligent Assistant (PIA) is also part of the technological features of the Audi Elaine. This can learn a person's behaviour and automatically take many decisions to reduce his/her work in the car. It can set the music automatically, navigate according to their preferences, set the climate control, choose the best parking spot etc. all based on its interaction with a user. If the system detects a stressed passenger, it can use the music, climate control system, seat massaging function and mood lighting to help them calm down!
Even though the Audi Elaine's features are certainly awe inspiring, it remains to be seen how many of those features will trickle down to the production model, and how many places around the world will be ready to work with these kinds of autonomous cars.
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