Audi quietly bursts into Frankfurt with the AI:Trail Quattro concept
Audi has been carefully completing a quartet of electric vehicles, the last of which is the AI:Trail all-electric all-terrain vehicle. The four-seat concept is meant for sustainable mobility in rough terrain, and it covers all of the bases, including automated driving and focused off-road capability.
The AI:Trail finishes Audi’s four vision vehicles, the others being the AI:ME, AI:Race, and the Audi Aicon. All four are being shown in Frankfurt at IAA. The Audi AI:ME debuted in Shanghai as an autonomous city car. The AI:Race, which introduced as the PB18 e-tron, is an electric sports car for on-track performance. The original Audi concept, the Aicon, began the quartet of concepts as a luxury-class, long-distance, automated electric car.
Audi foresees a future in which mainstream vehicles are more purpose-built, as opposed to the generally utilitarian designs of vehicles today. Artificial intelligence systems and learning computers will unite the varied vehicles so that drivers going from one to another will have a continuity of experience with infotainment, entertainment, ride quality, and more.
The AI:Trail has an exterior length of 13.5 feet (4.15 meters) and a width of 7.05 ft (2.15 m). It’s clearly an off-road vehicle, with extended tires for added reach and a low roof height (5.5 ft/1.67 m) to keep a lower center of gravity despite high ground clearance (13.4 in/34 cm). Its 22-inch wheels are mounted with 33.5-inch tires, helping the AI:Trail to ford water up to 1.6 ft (0.5 m) deep.
The four-seat cabin is largely made of polygonal shapes and glazed glass. A few design hints, such as the protruding ridge on the side windows, hints at the AI:Trail’s kinship with the other AI concepts. The battery pack for the AI:Trail is below the floor, with separate motors powering each wheel for four-wheel drive (“Quattro”) movement. Its maximum outputs of 429 horsepower (320 kW) and 738 pound-feet (1,000 Nm) of torque can be reserved or split between each wheel as required.
The body of the AI:Trail is made from a mixture of steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber, united at various points to utilize the strengths of each where appropriate. The whole rig weighs only 3,858 lb (1,750 kg), including the batteries.
As an off-road machine, one of the points of the AI:Trail is to give passengers full visibility of the surrounding terrain. The wraparound windshield and enclosed “open” cockpit, similar to a helicopter, gives as much visibility as possible in all directions. Both the windshield and tailgate open wide and upwards, allowing full access to storage. This includes separate compartments for dirty clothing or muddy items, and tie-down straps for holding items in place during transit.
The large MacPherson struts and coil springs, adaptive dampers, and variable air pressure tires give the AI:Trail maximum off-pavement capability. The tires can inflate and deflate on demand, and are specially designed to give added support to the vehicle at varied inflation points while also adding to the suspension travel by up to 2.4 inches (60 mm).
The AI:Trail also has adjustable lighting for both exterior and interior use. Integrated into the bodywork, the lights are self-contained with their own batteries and can be removed or re-positioned as needed. Also adding to the lighting are five rotor-less, triangular-shaped drones (called Audi Light Pathfinders) that can fly ahead and around the AI:Trail to add lighting as needed. These ALPs can land and dock to recharge autonomously. In addition, their on-board cameras can capture information not only for the car’s computers while driving, but also for viewing by passengers or to aid in navigation.
Autonomous on the road and semi-autonomous off of it, the AI:Trail is what Audi sees as the future of purpose-built mobility.