FRANKFURT, GERMANY – Audi's press event was kicked off by what is certainly the world's most metal rock band. The hard-rocking, Berlin-based trio of "Compressorhead" – Fingers (guitar), Stickboy (drums), and Bones (bass) are believed to be the first exclusively robotic band – androids constructed entirely from scrap metal and electro-pneumatic valves. It was a fitting intro for an event focussed almost entirely on artificial intelligence and automated driving.
But CEO Rupert Stadler is quick to point out that the intent isn't to "hand over human tasks to robots, but to use AI to enhance our lives.”
MORE RELATED ARTICLES
Audi's AI technology debuts with the new A8 sedan and marks the first use of its Level 3 autonomous "traffic jam assist.’ The next step in semi-autonomous driving lets the car operate at speeds up to 60 km/h, temporarily freeing up the driver to look after work emails or other tasks.
He or she can also remotely park the car, and then monitor it using a smartphone app. Optional tech packs offer such safety features as active pedestrian detection, rear cross traffic assist, and traffic jam assist. The A8 can even tap into the Audi hive mind using its onboard infotainment and navigation systems to communicate with other vehicles via the cloud. "Car to X" technology lets connected Audis communicate to each other and provide traffic information, accident warnings, or weather conditions.
Audi also chose the occasion to roll out two new autonomous, all-electric concept vehicles.
It looks a lot like the previous E-Tron Sportback concept, but "Elaine" boasts Level 4 autonomy. Using a more advanced form of Traffic Jam Pilot called "Highway Pilot", the Elaine concept's more advanced processors and sensors enable it to travel unassisted for long distances; even changing lanes without any driver involvement.
In addition to all the onboard safety and connectivity systems found in the A8 sedan, the Elaine can also familiarize itself with you using a PIA (Personal Intelligence Assistant) to respond to voice inputs and anticipate such needs as climate control, navigation, parking spots and music.
"Aicon" (AI + icon, get it?) takes it even further with what is essentially a transportation pod on wheels. With no steering wheel nor pedals, the Aicon is a fully-autonomous, luxury EV with configurable seating space for four. Passengers can use one of several entertainment displays, while exterior screens communicate with pedestrians and other vehicles. Aicon will reportedly have a range of more than 800 km on a single charge, and Audi predicts that Level 4 and 5 vehicles may be capable of travelling independently to special AI Zones for wireless charging.
Low-slung and streamlined, the Aicon has enough shared design DNA to be instantly recognizable as an Audi, despite its wildly futuristic appearance. It bears strong resemblance to the RSQ concept developed for the sci-fi film "I, Robot" set in 2035. Speaking of which, parent company VW Group's CEO Matthias Müller claims that by the year 2030, all 12 brands under their umbrella will be electrified. The initiative, dubbed "Roadmap E" is a $24 billion commitment, but as Muller, said "a breakthrough won't be achieved by self-proclaimed pioneers.”