Audi's AI:Trail Quattro comes with drones instead of headlights
If you, like me, are left awestruck by what Audi has managed to achieve here, believe me, the pictures don't do justice to the tech beneath it. This Audi AI:TRAIL quattro, hyped as the off-roader of the future looks almost certain to live up to its many expectations. Oh, and you thought your future was going to be full of screens? Not this one.
This four-seater, automated driven off-roader looks, unlike anything you might have ever seen. Sure, it looks like something out of Tron movies but the designers have put in a lot of thought in making it this way instead of making it go for maximum cool quotient. Which it did achieve, anyway.
Starting with the design, or more importantly, the glass. The entire vehicle looks wrapped in glass. As Audi very rightly describes, the windshield wraps around the front of the vehicle like the cockpit of a helicopter. Except in this, the glass area extends further to the sides, rear and even the roof as well, providing the driver with literal all-round visibility. The idea behind it? As per Audi, the “Trail” part of the name evokes the idea of exploring nature. Hence, the big screens usually used for streaming TV series or videoconferencing have been replaced by broad glass surfaces that provide a clear view of the surroundings.
As you may have noticed, it doesn’t even have proper wheel walls but just a slab of horizontal fender above the wheels. Why? So that you could see the suspension at work while driving. Speaking of suspension, the AI:Trail has been equipped with transverse links and MacPherson suspension struts with coil springs and adaptive dampers with a special tire design, helping it contribute a further 60mm (2.4 inches) of suspension travel. Remember James May surprisingly loving dune racing, because it was comfortable? Yeah, this could qualify for that
Further technology on this off-roader from the future includes a sensor-controlled air pressure regulation that can reduce the tire pressure when on the sand for larger contact patch and can pump it back up again for tarmac. Now, look closer at the AI:Trail and point out the headlights. No? Aren’t there? They are there but are now contained beneath the A-Pillar while serving the dual function of lighting up the exterior like the conventional headlights or illuminating the interiors.
While on the subject of interiors, it has been kept quite minimalistic and rightfully so. The idea behind the AI:Trail is to explore the unknown. How would a dashboard with screens all around it make sense if you were meant to simply just lookout? Clever thinking, that! But then, it is the materials and the minimal tech that they’ve added which makes it a premium vehicle.
The theme inside has been kept in a light shade. The view from the driver’s seat includes a half-cut steering wheel and a smartphone attached on top of it, to provide with the usual infographics like navigation and vehicle stats. Although that smartphone positioning does beg the question: resemble an Uber driver?
The materials inside are good for nature. For instance, the material lining up the luggage compartment is made out of wool while the carpets have been skimmed out of recycled wool and leather. If you look closely, the second-row seats aren’t exactly proper bucket seats. Designed more like a hammock, those are meant for leisure and prominently or rather innovatively can be taken out entirely as mobile chairs for your picnics.
If you thought this Audi was out of tricks, you have got to read this. The AI:Trail comes with drones. Yes, you read that right. Christened the Audi Light Pathfinders, these flying objects can fly ahead of the vehicle and illuminate the path while also transmitting the view of the path up ahead into the screen in the AI:Trail, making itself as a worthy contender for the next advancement in the department of headlights. If you’re more of a picnic person than a hardcore off-road junkie, these drones can sit atop the roof, illuminating the surroundings of the car, making the vehicle itself as a perfect spot for a gathering.
As this off-roader is an all-out EV, Audi has tried their best to keep the range-anxiety school of thought away from the user. This AI:Trail is capable of delivering up to 400-500kms (248 to 310 miles) on the tarmac. Taking the vehicle off it, and onto rougher terrains with slopes, the range reduces for a healthy 250kms or 155 miles.
Powering this EV are four motors, each residing beside a wheel with total output standing at 320kW or 428hp and 1,000Nm of torques. As power can be transmitted straight from the motor to the wheels, eliminating the need for differential or locks, this vehicle can harness most of its power without losing it in transfer to axles, as seen in current vehicles.
Now, the scary part for enthusiasts. The AI part in AI:Trail is quite evidently indicating towards autonomous driving. This all-electric off-roader has been designed to attain Level 4 autonomous driving, second-highest in the list. It implies that the car can drive itself in a controlled and suitable infrastructure. Whereas, when switching to terrains where there are no roads, the driver will have to take over as the surfaces are said to erode and digital mapping for that part isn’t quite ready yet.
If off-roading isn't your thing, here are some other Audi models which were unveiled since yesterday - the former for the eco-activist in you and the latter, for the V8 loving driving enthusiast in you.