What's the news?
Audi's big news at the Shanghai motor show is the AI:ME, a futuristic autonomous city. It's a vision of how Audi sees us all getting around town in 15 or 20 years' time.
Described as "a visionary mobility concept for the megacities of the future" the AI:ME (yes, it's pronounced 'Amy') is a compact, but tall, city car that has a few overtones of Audi's lamented A2 hatchback of the late nineties about it (check out that rear profile...).
Of course, it draws rather more heavily on the AICON concept, a fully-autonomous luxury saloon, that was first shown off last year. The styling of the AI:ME is very clearly lifted from the AICON, especially at the front.
The AI:ME makes good use of its electric powertrain to maximise interior space. It's 4.3 metres long, so around the same size as a Volkswagen Golf, but it's 1.9 metres tall (SUV-style height) and has a long 2.7-metre wheelbase, meaning that cabin space is exceptionally good.
That's all helped by having the 170hp electric motor mounted under the rear floor, driving the rear wheels.
Audi isn't talking yet about battery capacity nor range, but it is talking about just how autonomous the AI:ME is. As you'd expect from a car with AI in its name, it's designed to use artificial intelligence. The idea is that it can use machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive itself better on the road, and something called 'interaction intelligence' which apparently makes it easier for the driver to interact with and communicate with the car's on-board systems.
Unlike the AICON concept, which is fully self-driving (what's known as Level 5 autonomy) the AI:ME is Level 4 autonomous, which basically means that while the car can drive itself, without any input from the driver, it's limited to specific, geo-fenced areas. That seems to be increasingly the case for new autonomous concepts - Audi isn't the first car maker to pull back from promises of full, open-road, robot driving. The AI:ME even gets a physical steering wheel and pedals, so that the driver can take control when they want to, or need to.