Its Shanghai show car, known as the Audi AI:ME, offers compact dimensions, a spacious, futuristic interior, and the ability to drive autonomously at level 4.

This allows the occupants to do what they like with their time on board. The Audi AI:ME offers a broad range of high-tech features for communication, entertainment, or simply relaxation.

The name AI:ME emphasises the relation to the Audi Alcon, the study of automated long-distance operation introduced in 2017.

What is long established in rail transportation and even aviation is at the threshold of a breakthrough in automotive transportation—automated driving. The Audi AI:ME is designed for use in the city and for driving at what is known as level 4.

This is the second-highest level on a standardised international scale for increasing automation. Although systems with level 4 do not require any assistance on the part of the driver, their function is limited to a specific area—such as highways or a specially equipped area in inner cities.

In these places, the driver can completely transfer the task of driving to the system. The driver needs to resume the task only when the car leaves the area defined for fully automated driving. By contrast to the Audi Alcon, a vehicle with level-5 function that is always fully autonomous, the Audi AI:ME is therefore equipped with the traditional steering wheel and pedal control elements in addition.

This means that the car, as well as the remaining road users, will drive automatically in a defined traffic area equipped with the corresponding infrastructure in the future. Self-regulating and self-controlling flows of traffic allow the vehicle to glide along calmly, avoiding heavy longitudinal or lateral acceleration. This is an important requirement for the occupants of the car to be able to detach themselves mentally from the traffic around them.

Audi AI fundamentally changes how cars are used and significantly enhances the time spent on board. The car is increasingly becoming a “third living space” alongside our homes and workplaces. It is thus only consistent that the Audi designers did not subordinate the interior of the Audi AI:ME to the shape of the body.

On the contrary. They prioritised the interior and made it the core of the whole vehicle. The focus here is less on the traditional connection between driver and vehicle—steering wheel, instruments, pedals—and more on the time spent in the automated vehicle.

This is why these control elements are retracted with an elegant and sophisticated choreography and are then almost fully concealed by a stowage compartment with a surface made of open-pore walnut wood.

In general: Stowage space will become more important than before in automated vehicles. The Audi AI:ME features large areas both on the cockpit cover and between the front seats that conceal a further innovative detail: Magnets serve as cup holders and hold metal cups or plates in place as required. Occupants can enjoy a relaxed meal while riding in the automated Audi AI:ME.

No matter what they are doing, the passengers can always find a comfortable seating position. The front seats are inspired by the classic lounge chair and feature a wide, comfortably cushioned seat, upholstered with textile material in warm shades of grey.

The backrests are designed as curved shells that are attached to the seat cushion only with a vertical carrier. When the pedal set is not needed, drivers can rest their feet on the supports under the dashboard, such as on an ottoman. On the rear bench, which reaches around to the side sections of the car, occupants can vary their seating position almost any way they like.