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Audi AI:Me autonomous electric city car unveiled in Shanghai

By Tim Pollard, 15 Apr 2019 News

Audi AI:Me autonomous electric city car unveiled in Shanghai

First look at the new megacity car from Audi

Bit of a mouthful, this one: this is the new, heavily autonomous Audi AI:me electric vehicle, being shown at the 2019 Shanghai motor show this week. And if you ever wondered if Audi could launch a city car below the A1, this is it.

This squat urban runabout is the most stylish small Audi we’ve seen since the original A2. It’s a four-seater that’s designed to conquer megacities such as the Chinese sprawl of its launchpad.

At just 4.3m long, it’s winningly compact, yet is designed to accommodate four in comfort, with plenty of luggage and even plants fitted in the rear bench (see above) to reconnect city dwellers with nature and purify the air they breathe. Yes, really.

Read next: Flying taxis are on their way: Audi

She’s electric, obviously…

A 125kW electric motor is fitted at the rear axle and it’s fed by a 65kWh lithium-ion battery, sufficient, says Audi, for hours of driving at typical urban speeds of between 19-70km/h.

It’s level 4 autonomous, meaning it can drive itself in carefully proscribed areas, and it’s dripping with machine learning and artificial intelligence to help it do so (hence the AI of its nameplate).

We’ll be speaking to the makers of the Audi AI:Me at the Shanghai show, so stay tuned for more detail on this mini marvel in the coming hours.

Read next: 2019 Audi E-Tron review

Audi on the AI:Me

It’s an ‘automated driving compact car for the megacities of tomorrow,’ says Audi. Which explains why it’s being shown in the booming Chinese city, where this kind of vehicle could feasibly become a reality in the coming years, according to Ingolstadt’s crystal balls. The AI:me has 'capability for level 4 automated driving,' which means hands-off piloting around town in geofenced areas.

Sounds to us a bit like a lower-slung BMW i3 rival taken to the next level.

This is a ‘new design study,’ code for a concept car which is used to gauge (and influence) public perception, as well as nudge internal strategies.

Three early design sketches (above) show a monobox design with wheels stretched far into each corner for a planted, sporty stance; a huge sweeping, canopy/cockpit-style windscreen swoops over an interior designed in the style of an informal lounge.

Machine learning, AI and Audi

This concept car is designed to showcase Audi’s budding skills in AI, or artificial intelligence, or machine learning. That name is surely no coincidence (and also spells French for love).

Expect to learn how the car maker’s all-seeing, all-comprehending sensors and algorithms will make sense of the world around them to pilot this petite four-seater around our increasingly crowded cities.

Read next: Audi's e-tron is helping you kick the hydrocarbon habit


Audi AI:me interior and touchscreens for buttons

The interior is rather fabulous on this first evidence. It shows a truncated steering wheel more akin to a computer game helm (note the nifty gear selector for Drive, Neutral and Reverse as a simple thumb-wheel on the right-hand spoke). Plus the simple clear-black display acting as a volume control on the driver’s door.

Buttons are verboten and there's a head-up display beaming most info a driver needs on to the screen ahead, with read-outs for traditional instruments but also wellbeing and occupant health. How very 2019.

Read next: Charging Ahead: Audi E-Tron at Pikes Peak