Audi AI:Trail: A futuristic Autonomous take on the Off Road Vehicle

by Nicole on September 17, 2019

As the concept of car ownership changes, the concept of the car must evolve as well. Audi has launched a series of vehicles that tackle the different ways that we’ll seek to use cars in the future. The AI:Trail completes a quartet of concepts with similarly colon-punctuated names—the AI:Con, AI:Me, and AI:Race. The autonomous-driving concepts with all-electric powertrains look to tackle all kinds of automotive lifestyle.

The AI:Trail is aimed firmly at the urbanite looking to get out of the city on an adventure. This off road vehicle features four electric motors which can work together to generate a maximum of 320kW of power and 1000Nm of torque.

As there’s an electric motor for each wheel, the AI:Trail can do without weight-adding, energy-consuming differentials and locks. Said to be made from a mixture of steel, aluminum and carbon-fibre, the AI:Trail tips the scales at 1750kg. Second-row seats follow a hammock-like design that helps save weight.

To ensure the car has as much range as possible both on- and off-road, top speed is limited to 130km/h. Audi says the car has an on-road range of between 400 and 500 kilometres, while off-road driving range drops to 250km as there’s almost constant wheel slippage.

The driver interface consists of a yoke instead of a steering wheel, plus a minimal set of buttons. Interior materials include recycled textiles, reprocessed wool, and recycled leather. There is a Samsung smartphone where the digital cockpit usually appears, it doesn’t deal with critical systems but focuses on navigation, there are small display’s to the side of the steering wheel for that.

As the last vehicle in Audi’s AI line of concepts, the AI:Trail is said to have Level 4 self-driving abilities on selected sealed roads, including highways and inner city areas with the appropriate infrastructure.

On unpaved roads the concept is capable of Level 3 self-driving on roads and tracks that have been well mapped. Even then the autonomous system will only drive at low speeds, giving the driver several seconds in which to intervene or take over when necessary.

With autonomous capabilities, the car uses five drones as its headlights, which hover in front of the vehicle whilst driving, and repositions themselves to the side doors when the car is parked and the passengers are alighting. In terms of mileage, a large lithium-ion battery can bring the AI:TRAIL as far as 310 miles on regular roads or more approachable off-road terrains. For more intense off-roading, the car can still push for around 155 miles in just one charge.

For more rugged terrain the AI:Trail will keep track of ground clearance, and approach and departure angles, and warn the driver if the car’s limits are about to exceeded. In some situations the car’s electronics will also actively keep the vehicle within the clear track.

Thanks to its 340mm ground clearance, the AI:Trail can ford water up to half-a-metre deep.

Audi says the car’s large glasshouse, which includes a transparent interpretation of brand’s single-frame grille design, allows passengers to have an expansive view of the trail they are travelling on.

With just a few exceptions, the electric cars of the past decade conform into a surprisingly homogenous set. They’re far from representative of the real potential of going fully electric—that it allows a lot more flexibility for vehicles to be strikingly different and varied in design versus models with a combustion engine. Audi’s AI series of concept cars shows up what’s possible using a fully electric engine and our imagination.