April 15th, 2019 by Steve Hanley
Auto shows are places where car companies stretch their wings, imagining vehicles that could become reality — some day. This week, Audi chose the Shanghai auto show to present its latest concept vehicle, the Audi AI:ME. Conceived as a self-driving electric car for stylish metrosexuals, it has the de rigeur feature that all concepts must have these days — rear hinged doors that spread wide to invite passengers inside. Maybe someday the idea will actually make it into a production car, but don’t hold your breath.
You can love the styling or hate it. Show cars are all about testing customer reactions, good or bad. What is important about the Audi AI:ME is that it is built on Volkswagen’s all new, fully configurable MEB electric car platform, so something like what you see here could appear with an ID badge on the hood somewhere down the road.
The concept has one rear-mounted 170 horsepower electric motor, though Audi says it won’t need anywhere near that much power to zip from east side to west side and all around the town. “Extreme acceleration values and top highway speeds are just as obsolete as high cornering speeds and ranges that are suitable for driving long distances,” Audi says. According to Motor 1, the target performance envelope for the AI:ME is speeds of between 12 and 43 mph over short distances.
The car features a foldaway steering wheel for those times when it is operating in Level 4 autonomous mode. The teaser video that accompanies the reveal does show that steering unfolding when the ultra modern couple inside decide to leave the confines of their urban cocoon and go in search of some switchbacks. Despite its low speed, short range design envelope, the concept is equipped with a 65 kWh battery, which under those circumstances should only need to be recharged about once a fortnight.
Price? Availability? Forget about it. This is just a concept, a hint of things to come from Audi and parent company Volkswagen. But that hint offers a glimpse of a very enticing future with one quibble. If the purpose of autonomous driving is just so easily bored humans can wear virtual reality glasses while driving so they can watch reruns of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, what’s the point?
A short video introduction to the Audi AI:ME is below. For a longer version, click this link.