Audi has announced its electrified and autonomous vehicle plans up to the year 2025, by when it foresees an investment of approximately 40bn (US$48bn) into e-mobility, autonomous driving and digitisation.
Part of that investment will go into the development of a fully functional version of the autonomous Aicon concept car, which Audi presented at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show (IAA). The car maker plans to deploy a pilot fleet of these AVs in 2021, with a series production model to follow later in the decade.
Specifications of the “interurban shuttle with lounge character”, as Audi calls it, have not yet been announced, but it is safe to say that the cars for the pilot fleet may not be quite as radical as the concept car. The Aicon concept featured no pedals or steering wheel whatsoever. It is unlikely that reliable Level 5 autonomy will have already become a reality by 2021, so expect driver controls to make a return.
What will most likely remain unchanged is the idea that it is a luxury vehicle rather than a purely functional driverless taxi. The Aicon is a four-door saloon car with a projected all-electric range of over 400 miles. The design study features a very cab-forward and a widely configurable interior.
By Ilya Verpraet