The Audi Aicon, unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, is a four-door 2+2 concept meant to represent a fully autonomous luxury saloon in the future.
By building this car, Audi means to demonstrate multiple innovations for drivetrain technology, suspension, digitalization and sustainability, while also showing off a luxurious interior, meant to mimic the ambiance of a first-class airline cabin.
While the concept is without a steering wheel or pedals, Audi would rather us not call it a “robot taxi” just yet, especially since the concept pulls out all the stops, both aesthetically as well as technically.
In terms of looks, the Audi Aicon impresses with its sheer size, measuring 5,444 mm (214.3 ft) in length, 2,100 mm (82.6 in) in width and 1,506 mm (59.3 in) in terms of height. These dimensions clearly place it within the D segment, where its 3,470 mm (136.6 in) wheelbase stands 240 mm (9.4 in) longer than what you get in the long wheelbase version of an A8 flagship.
A first in terms of automotive design is the distinct edge that runs as a hard line along the side window surfaces, back to the D-pillar, emphasizing the concept’s length and basically reducing the apparent volume of the cabin relative to the exterior. Other hard to miss features would be the strongly flared wheel wells, giant 26″ wheels, and the inverted hexagonal Singleframe – a feature that will be found on Audi’s upcoming generation of electric cars.
Another special feature for the Aicon is its LED lighting technology. The concept is actually without any conventional headlights or taillights, which have been replaced by fully digital display surfaces, made up of hundreds of triangular pixel segments and representing 3D recreations of the Audi AI symbol. The large surfaces and high pixel counts allow for versatile graphics, animations and even information, in any color, which means that the Audi of the future could waive goodbye to daytime running light technology since it might actually adapt to the driving situation and allow passengers to fully customize its lighting features.
The Aicon concept will even use animations on its display surfaces in order to warn pedestrians or cyclists of potentially dangerous situations. For example, horizontal stripes of light move from the bottom up when the car accelerates, and in the opposite direction during braking.
Another cool feature is the Aicon’s ability to illuminate the road and its surroundings in high resolution and project signals onto the ground, thus communicating warnings and vehicle information to passers-by with no direct line of sight to the car. As for long range headlights, those apparently will go extinct in the future since the Aicon’s laser and radar sensor system sees everything, even in the dark. Now, if none of this seems futuristic enough, then how about the fact that this concept comes with a “light companion”, which is basically a mini-drone with a flashlight that safely illuminates the user’s walking path.
Moving on to the interior, the Aicon features doors that open to the front and rear. Since there’s no B-pillar, the entire cabin is exposed to the passengers as they enter the vehicle. When the two individual front seats are slid all the way back, the cabin appears to be extremely wide, which is a good thing for a 2+2 seater. The two front seats are designed for comfort and spaciousness, and can slide around thanks to a platform covered in high-pile carpet that can move longitudinally. Individual seats can also swivel by up to 15 degrees, making it easier to interact with fellow passengers or to simply enter the vehicle.
As for luggage space, Audi say there’s plenty of it inside the Aicon concept. Since this is a full-electric vehicle, there is a storage compartment both at the rear as well as at the front, with a combined capacity of roughly 660 liters (23.3 cu.ft).
Now, when it’s time to engage with the car, there are multiple input modes available. There’s the haptic-manual layer, voice control and eye tracking – the car is constantly aware of where the passenger is looking. If your purpose is to relax, you can simply watch a movie or surf the web. You can also have video conferences, interact on social media and even move what’s on the large front display onto the windshield. Then there’s the glass roof panels that can block out sunlight, or the mood lighting feature, which works by employing integrated OLED lighting elements.
Finally, the drivetrain and suspension. Since the Aicon was designed as the “automobile of the future”, the technology used was also systematically designed for a world where the transportation infrastructure is just about fully developed and there are autonomous vehicles parked on every street.
On the move, the Audi Aicon concept utilizes four electric motors, located on the front and rear axles. In total, they put down 260 kW (353 PS) and 550 Nm (405 lb-ft) of torque, as each motor drives an individual wheel. Audi engineers focused more on maximum efficiency and range than they did acceleration, which is evident by the concept’s ability to cover between 434 miles (700 km) and 497 miles (800 km) on a single charge.
As for the suspension, the Aicon uses pneumatic spring and damper units in order to smooth out any road surface irregularities. Meanwhile electric actuators at all four wheels control any body lean, whether the car is cornering, accelerating or braking.
According to Audi, the Aicon concept, designed with a focus on comfort, communication and freedom during long journeys, will be followed by other “multi-talented models”, each with their own “specialized discipline.”
* Live photos from the Frankfurt Motor Show have been added to the gallery