Presently, vehicle design is dictated heavily by global safety regulations. Certain countries require cars to protect pedestrians, for example, in the case of a collision with a car. This forces car designers to tweak body lines and features to accommodate those rules. The resulting safety-directed designs might not be the most aerodynamically or spatially efficient, however.
Imagine, then, in the future when autonomous cars are virtually impossible to crash because they’re speaking to one another, the infrastructure around them and processing data not only from onboard sensors but also from those on the vehicles around them. In this reality, it’s easy to imagine that crash safety rules could be relaxed if not altogether erased.
Safety Through Autonomy
With those rules done away with, car designers are free to craft a vehicle that is unencumbered by legislators and only inhibited by their imagination and, well, aerodynamics. Underscoring that idea, Audi has prepared a design sketch for a future-looking autonomous pod vehicle that the German automaker plans to reveal at the Shanghai auto show later this month.
It’s called the AI:ME. Audi doesn’t spell out what that name means. We can safely assume AI stands for artificial intelligence. And the ME? Well, maybe that’s just ‘me,’ as in you. No matter the meaning of the name, the design study shows what Audi designers are imagining for the brand’s compact autonomous car designs crafted specifically for megacities of the future.
Intriguingly, along with the pencil and paper sketch, Audi provided the above interior rendering, which includes a steering wheel. I would have wagered by the time we are altering the way cars look thanks to autonomous safety tech that steering wheels would have been long since eliminated. Perhaps there’s more to this concept than meets the eye from these three images.
We’ll be sure to follow up with a full report once the AI:ME makes its official debut in Shanghai on April 15, 2019.