Imagine a futuristic D-segment car that could ferry up to four passengers in utmost convenience and luxury. Yes, there is no driver involved and the passengers just need to sit back, relax and wait for their imminent arrival at the predetermined destination. Now, if your imagination is failing you, then one of Audi’s newest concepts – the new Audi Aicon Concept car -- being displayed at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show could help you visualize the future of autonomous vehicles.
As designed, the new Audi Aicon is a 2+2 technology show car that measures 5,444 mm (17.9 ft.) in length, 2,100 mm (6.9 ft.) in width and 1,506 mm (4.9 ft.) in height, with a wheelbase of 3,470 mm (11.4 ft.). The focus of the new Aicon is to provide a spacious and functional cabin where passengers transitions from the point of departure to the destination – all done autonomously. The new Aicon is capable of Level 5 autonomy, which means that it employs a fully-autonomous system that is good enough to replace a human driver in any driving situation or condition. The autonomy level of the new Aicon is determined to be good enough to pull up to a charging station on its own in an AI Zone and recharge its battery sans human intervention.
The interior of the Aicon has been designed to resemble that of a first-class airline cabin – spacious, comfortable and luxurious. To achieve a great sense of space, the Aicon is provided with large glass surfaces both at the front and rear as well as with convex side windows. The side windows feature a hard line running along them from the A-pillar to the D-pillar, thereby helping accentuate the Aicon’s length. This is addition to the fact that its wheelbase is 240 mm (9.4 in) longer than that of the Audi A8 flagship.
The new Aicon features strongly flared wheel wells – highlighting its quattro configuration – serving as home to massive 26-inch wheels that have been as far out to the corners. The new Aicon features minimal lines on both the front and rear ends, with large, uninterrupted surfaces defining its exterior. The front end of the Aicon features an inverted hexagonal Singleframe sans large air openings – highlighting its nature as an electric car.
Instead of conventional headlights and lighting units, the new Aicon makes use of fully digital display surfaces comprising hundreds of triangular pixel segments, which 3D recreations of the Audi AI symbol. This lighting system allows for versatile graphics and even animations in any color. Animations could be used to provide warning to pedestrians. Interestingly, the Aicon employs no long-range headlights. Instead, its laser and radar sensor system are good enough to see even in the dark.
Allowing access to the interior of the new Audi Aicon are opposed doors opening to the front and rear. Greater levels of entry and exit are facilitated by the fact that there is no B-pillar that may impede access to the cabin. Since the Aicon is a Level 5 fully autonomous car, there is no need for a steering wheel and a classic dashboard. The absence of these components allows for a more spacious – both in sense and actuality – interior. This is further facilitated by the massive glass surfaces, the transparent roof and the low waist line. The transparency of glass roof panels could be adjusted to offer shade from sunlight.
Two individual seats are provided, although two more passengers could be accommodated via an upholstered, two-seat bench that’s integrated into the rear panel. The two front seats could be slid on a platform up to 500 mm (19.7 in) back and forth between the forward and rear positions. The pitch of the seat cushions and backrests are adjustable. Since the Aicon has no conventional engine, it offers storage spaces at both the front and rear, with a combined capacity of around 660 liters (23.3 cu ft).
Inside, the Aicon – thanks to modern communications electronics – allows passengers to watch a film, surf the Internet, hold video conferences or interact on social media. The Aicon allows passengers to do whatever they want – relax, work communicate or even take a nap – while on the road.
As for propulsion, the new Aicon employs four electric motors driving each wheel for an electronically controlled, variable quattro all-wheel drive. Total system power is pegged at 260 kW (349 hp) of output and 550 Nm (405.7 lb.-ft.) of torque. Its battery pack is powerful enough to allow a range of between 700 km and 800 km (between 435.0 miles and 497.1 miles) before needing a recharge.