Picture this. It’s 6pm. You’re just itching to go home as fast as you possibly can after a particularly bad day at the office. You head to the parking garage, get into your car and work your way toward the exit through seven dizzying upward spirals from your basement slot. When you finally emerge from the depths of your office building, traffic is at a hopeless standstill. All what’s left for you to do is cry. And cry some more.
In the future, you won’t have to cry anymore. That is, if you have an Audi AI:ME.
The AI:ME is the newest member of Audi’s high-tech self-driving line of cars equipped with the company’s artificial intelligence technology, Audi AI, which is a suite of computerized systems that takes away the stress of driving from the vehicle’s occupants and allows them to efficiently make use of their time spent on the road. The AI:ME makes this holistic approach to self-driving possible by combining vehicle intelligence and interaction intelligence. Vehicle intelligence is the brain that makes a vehicle drive itself, while interaction intelligence is the reciprocative link between the car and its passengers.
So, the Audi AI:ME has the framework to make it function as a vehicle that can drive on its own. It is designed with Level 4 automation in mind. Level 4 is the second-highest grade in driving automation, which means that the self-driving functions will only work under a certain set of conditions. Simply put, the intelligent AI:ME still comes with a steering wheel and pedals just in case these conditions are not met, and a human has to take over driving. Think of it as how a modern airliner maintains straight and level flight. The autopilot does most of the flying, but the cockpit still has joysticks and throttle controls so the pilot can take over in case the computers go haywire.
The vehicle has compact car dimensions: 4.3m long and 1.9m wide. But the wheelbase is a generous 2.77m due to both axles being shoved as close to the bumpers as possible. The design approach to the interior isn’t driver-focused with a traditional dashboard and its associated controls. Instead, Audi thought of giving the cabin as much wiggle room as possible to give its occupants plenty of space to do stuff that would normally be unthinkable when driving the car yourself.
When the AI:ME is left to its own driving devices, the steering wheel and the pedals are retractable. Seating is clearly geared for procrastination with two lounge chairs and a comfortable couch placed where the back seat would be. Practically nothing is out of reach within the confines of each seat as every gadget onboard is accessible via eye-tracking controls, voice commands or touchpads built within the door trim. The lazy couch potato in you can indeed wink, speak and swipe your way toward changing the radio station or adjusting the fan speed, the interface of which is displayed on the windshield, which doubles as a 3D OLED monitor. The AI:ME comes with VR goggles for those who prefer to selfishly keep the lounging experience all to themselves.
Besides the virtual entertainment, there are elements within the AI:ME’s cabin that come straight from Mother Nature’s parts bin. Materials used in the interior come from a mix of wood and various recycled matter. The ceiling has wooden struts arranged in a lattice where plants can actually grow. Yes, real-world vegetation can thrive within the interior, which Audi claims “gives occupants a feeling of proximity to nature and helps to objectively improve air quality in the automobile at the same time.” A pretty good way to please both Greenpeace members and asthma patients.
Audi plans to make the AI:ME experience more personal through “Audi On Demand.” What this means is that consumers can easily have access to these vehicles just like how one would book a trip through a ride-share app. But while the compact sedan you get with your TNC booking has stained seat covers and an air-conditioning system that reeks of cigarette smoke, the AI:ME vehicle that comes with your ride request is ready to suit the personal preferences you set in the “myAudi” database. The car arrives with your preferred cabin temperature, favorite song playlist, or even a child seat should you require one.
The future of motoring is so bright we gotta wear shades.