If you had to go off-roading in Blade Runner 2049, you’d want to do it in something like Audi’s new AI:TRAIL Concept And this thing owns so hard that I hope its design cues are implemented in every off-road vehicle for the rest of forever.
This car is the fourth in a series of autonomous concepts designed to highlight what the future could look like. There’s the Aicon, a luxury car designed for the track; the AI:RACE, an electric autonomous race car; the AI:ME, an autonomous city car; and finally now the AI:TRAIL, an off-roader. All four will be shown together at IAA.
This off-roader is probably the most ambitious of the four, a fresh look at a pretty traditionally challenging form of driving. Audi’s press release makes it very, very clear of all you can expect:
The roof height of 1.67 meters (5.5 ft) and the enormous 22-inch wheels with 850 mm (33.5 in) tires hint at the vehicle’s excellent off-road capabilities even when it is standing still. With a ground clearance of an impressive 34 centimeters (13.4 in), it can ford through water more than half a meter (1.6 ft) deep.
On rough, rocky terrain, this architecture provides plenty of agility without the battery unit integrated in the floor coming into contact with the ground.
In addition to that, the AI:TRAIL features a wraparound windshield for all-around visibility, plenty of room for four passengers, hammock seats for passengers in the rear, and both a windshield and tailgate that open.
It even has trunk space specifically for dirty and muddy clothes. That’s thinking ahead. It’s not a built-in water purifier for future desertification thinking ahead, or Mad Max booby traps-grade of future-proofing, but it’s something.
If an autonomous off-road vehicle sounds kind of strange, you’d be correct. The point of off-roading is to challenge yourself and your driving skills, not to just let the machine do everything for you.
But the AI:TRAIL’s autonomy doesn’t actually work off-road. Because autonomy depends on digital mapping that generally doesn’t exist in the wilderness, it’ll enable the driver to actually drive the car, albeit with plenty of driver assists to make the whole excursion a little easier:
The data for friction values and slip, longitudinal and lateral acceleration provide the electronics with all necessary parameters they need in order to optimize drive stability. There is also a whole range of sensors that can detect both the road surface and obstacles; they work with optical systems such as cameras and lasers, as well as with ultrasound and radar. The data that they provide enables the central driver assistance system to avoid collisions by intervening with the steering and braking as needed
The electronics also assist the driver with conquering uneven stretches; for example. when the vehicle is in a tilted position or on particularly challenging inclines. Where necessary, the systems warn the driver when critical limits are about to be exceeded, such as ground clearance or angles of incidence that are difficult to control. They can also keep the vehicle on track, within the limits of the system—much like a lane-keeping assist working in concert with cruise control.
Basically, it’s off-roading made luxurious with plenty of driver assistance and modern technology—which I honestly kind of like. Sure, it removes some of the grittiness of off-roading, but there’s also a pretty good chance that if you’re driving an Audi off-road, you don’t want it to get too fucked up.
This is obviously just a concept, but it’s a really cool one. I don’t know about you, but I’m signing up for the future that Audi is predicting here.