Self-driving vehicles once belonged in the realm of hard sci-fi, right alongside nutrient cubes and bipedal automatons. Nowadays, they’re rapidly becoming a reality, since everyone from automakers to tech giants like Google and Apple are cracking the code to driverless, fully autonomous cars. Now, German marque Audi – once on the verge of cracking level three automation (‘eyes off’) for their A8 sedan before it got scrapped – reveals its plans for a driver-free future. And it is glorious.
The Grandsphere concept is the second in a three-part concept study showing off the capabilities of the 112-year-old brand in the 21st century. Previously, they unveiled the Audi Skysphere: an electric-powered concept vehicle that could transform from a convertible roadster into a grand tourer with the flick of a switch.
Now, though, software and hardware are the key pieces of the puzzle. In Audi’s concept piece, the former comes through level four automation vis-à-vis SAE International’s classifications. It’s a step up from the tech Audi was hoping to incorporate into the A8.
Unlike level three automation, which works more like autopilot until the system alerts drivers to intervene, level four implies that the car can drive itself safely in most circumstances, freeing the driver almost completely.
The steering wheels and pedals disappear into the dashboard, providing more room for entertainment or simply a commanding view of the drive. The front seats are now premium real estate. There’s even an onboard cooler with glasses if one’s thirsty.
And since they’re going high tech, other personal creature comforts abound. The car can automatically identify passengers and personalise the car to his or her favoured settings. Think climate control, seat position and infotainment systems.
Recessed speakers designed for discreet entertainment that don’t disturb other passengers and filtered air with an option of adding a perfume of choice, pamper your remaining senses. The driver can also control onboard entertainment systems through an intuitive control panel that accepts gesture tracking tech.
For those who enjoy driving, it is still possible. High-resolution displays will project onto wooden surfaces under the windshield, providing crisp feedback as you rev the vehicle’s twin electric motors that pump out 960nm of torque and 530kw output and a 750km range. It’s 120 kWh battery has a 750km range and can supposedly recover 80 per cent of its charge in just under 30 minutes. For the motor heads, the Grandsphere has a century sprint of just over four seconds.
But those are all numbers. Ideas are far more interesting and Audi promises to come up with more during the Grandsphere’s reveal during IAA 2021 (International Motor Show Germany), happening this week until 12 Sept 2021.