AUDI is showcasing a futuristic electric off-roader with its own squadron of drones at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show.
The four-seater AI:TRAIL quattro combines the capacity for automated driving with superb off-road capabilities. Glass surrounding the cabin extends all the way to ground level, providing unrivalled all-round visibility, and ample battery capacity ensures plenty of range even away from dense networks of charging stations.
As the ‘Trail' part of its name evokes the idea of exploring nature, itswindscreen wraps helicopter-style around the front of the vehicle. Passengers have an unobstructed view of the trail both in front and to the sides. Almost the entire roof allows a clear view of the sky and the landscape and even the vertical Singleframe is glazed.
Both the windscreen and the tailgate open wide, providing easy access to large storage compartments with straps to keep luggage secure in transit. Integrated in the rear bumper is a separate compartment for dirty items such as hiking boots or wet clothing.
With an exterior length of 4.15 metres and a width of 2.15 metres, the brawny AI:TRAIL's potential away from paved roads is immediately apparent. The roof height of 1.67 metres and enormous 22-inch wheels with 850 mm tyres hint at the vehicle's excellent off-road capabilities even when it is standing still. With a ground clearance of an impressive 34 centimetres, it can ford through water more than half a metre deep.
The tyres also feature variable, sensor-controlled air pressure regulation. Optical sensors and electronic stability control work together to detect the condition of the road surface and adjust the air pressure in the tyres accordingly.
Light weight and maximum body stiffness are important for off-roaders so the body of the AI:TRAIL is made of a mixture of high-tech steel, aluminium and carbon fibre. As a result, it weighs just 1,750 kilograms.
A four-seater, the interior of the AI:TRAIL is uncluttered and spacious, and it has just a few visible control elements. Pedals, a yoke for a steering wheel, a few buttons, and a smartphone attached to the steering column as a display and control centre for vehicle functions and navigation - are all the elements there are for the interaction between the driver and the vehicle.
The second row of two seats are designed like hammocks. When taut and tensioned in a transportable tubular frame, panels of fabric form a comfortable seating surface and backrest, and the backrest that is drawn around to the side even provides lateral support. They can even be taken out and used as mobile outdoor chairs.
Instead of conventional headlights, self-contained light sources sit below the front-pillars and can shine both outward and inward. These LED elements are dimmable and adjustale and can be used as interior lighting as well as for lighting the vehicle's path. The rear light, which extends across the full width of the rear section, operates in a similar way.
Instead of conventional low beams and high beams, the AI:TRAIL is equipped with five rotorless, electrically operated drones with integrated matrix LED elements.
These ‘Light Pathfinders' can fly ahead of the AI:TRAIL and illuminate the path ahead, thereby replacing headlights entirely. On-board cameras can generate a video image which can be transmitted to the display in front of the driver via Wi-Fi, turning the Pathfinders into eyes in the sky.
There's also the the easy-to-use Audi Light Companion - shaped like a large flashlight but with a much more extensive range of functions.
Normally magnetically attached to the front side of the seat, where it acts as ambient lighting, you can also take the Light Companion with you when you leave the AI:TRAIL. Integrated in its housing are three legs that can be used to stand the light in place and turn it into a campfire light or a close-range floodlight.
The housing also accommodates several cameras that can scan the way ahead or take videos of the scenery, which can then be uploaded directly so social media.
The range of the AI:TRAIL is also draws noteworthy. The stated target with its lithium-ion battery is 248 to 310 miles on roads or easy off-road terrain. On rough ground, where energy consumption is higher, the limit is still an impressive 155 miles.
Equipped with four electric motors installed near the wheels, each of which propels one wheel directly, the vehicle is designed to reach a speed of 80mph on the road. Its maximum output is 320 kilowatts and the maximum torque is 1,000Nm but Audi says only a fraction of this is usually mobilised as the drive of just one axle is often sufficient.