Audi unveiled its AI:Trail concept at the Frankfurt motor show.
Audi unveiled its AI:Trail concept at the Frankfurt motor show.

In Audi’s future, off-roading takes its cues from drones

Four-wheel drive enthusiasts will be able to head off the beaten track in self-driving electric vehicles capable of coaching them to be better drivers.

That's the vision of the AI:Trail concept unveiled by Audi at this week's Frankfurt motor show.

Audi’s AI:Trail concept looks like something out of a video game.
Audi’s AI:Trail concept looks like something out of a video game.

The machine looks unlike any current production car. Taking inspiration from helicopters, its glass cabin gives an uninterrupted view of the outside world.

The enormous digital displays frequently found in concept vehicles are conspicuously absent - Audi's designers want people to look out the window for entertainment.

Audi unveiled its AI:Trail concept at the Frankfurt motor show.
Audi unveiled its AI:Trail concept at the Frankfurt motor show.

Power comes from four electric motors with a combined 320kW of power and 1000Nm of torque.

The electric vehicle has an intended range of 400km-500km on smooth bitumen and 250km off-road.

Clever computers direct power to the wheels with the most grip. The tyres vary the tread depth, pushing blocks of rubber out high for grip on loose surfaces and retracting them for a smooth ride on the road.

The AI:Trail pushes technology into new areas. (Photo by Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images)
The AI:Trail pushes technology into new areas. (Photo by Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images)

Supportive seats can be removed and used as camping chairs. Internal lights can be plucked out, to be taken on hikes beyond the base or fixed to a mini tripod to illuminate campsites.

Audi says the car's torches also give basic navigational guidance via coloured messages to help lost campers find their way back.

Audi unveiled its AI:Trail concept at the Frankfurt motor show.
Audi unveiled its AI:Trail concept at the Frankfurt motor show.

Roof-mounted drones can fly ahead to scout for obstacles on the route or provide a bird's-eye view to help drivers choose their path.

Audi says the car can comfortably drive itself on paved roads and highways. Autonomy on dirt will be limited to low-speed conditions and exceptional circumstances.

Sensors warn drivers if they are likely to damage the car by bottoming out, colliding with objects or tipping over on steep slopes. This tech can be used to coach and assist drivers who are new to off-road adventures.


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