It’s not yet clear what the future of driving will look like. Self-driving cars may well be to our generation what flying cars were to the drivers of the 1960s: a seemingly imminent development, if only we can solve a few unknowns. But automated vehicles may also be just around the corner. If they are indeed coming soon, the Audi AI.ME concept offers what may be the most realistic look at that future yet.
Building on sound fundamentals for any vehicle of the urban tomorrow—self-driving or not—the AI:ME is compact and all-electric. Just 169.0 inches long and 74.8 inches wide, the AI:ME is plenty parkable, yet its stretched 109.0-inch wheelbase and 59.8-inch height mean more cabin space for the “2+X” passenger layout.
Wait, what’s a 2+X layout? It means the cabin can be reconfigured for various uses, such flexibility being key to the future self-driving, artificial-intelligence-infused transport pods. The car is being reimagined as an extension of our living and working spaces, essentially a room on wheels. That means the seating can be rearranged, allowing for more room to stretch out and rest, more desk-like space for productivity, or even more space for cargo for those big shopping trips. Magnetic cup and plate holders even allow occupants to enjoy meals on the go.
As a Level 4 self-driving car, the AI:ME will retain its steering wheel and pedals, unlike the Level 5 self-driving Audi AIcon concept. That means the future imagined by the AI:ME might not be utterly dystopian for drivers who still hope to have a hands-on link to their cars, even if the wheel and pedals will still spend most of their time tucked out of sight.
So how will the users interact with the AI:ME if they’re not cocooned in the typical forward-facing driver/passenger roles of today? They’ll use their voices, eye-tracking tech, hands, and VR, of course. Smart surfaces light when the car senses you want to interact with them, disappearing into the background when not needed. A three-dimensional OLED display spanning the width of the dash below the windshield gives contextual information, controlled by the driver’s eyes through tracking technology. The VR goggles enable internet access, entertainment display, and more.