September 11, 2019
Audi's Off-Roader Concept Has Drone Fleet For Headlamps

German car manufacturer Audi wowed onlookers with its recent concept vehicle -- dubbed AI:Trail -- at the 2019 Frankfurt Auto Show yesterday. The booth displayed an all-electric off-roader that's accompanied by a fleet of up to five drones. Said drones will illuminate the terrain around the vehicle instead of the usual headlamps, Engadget reported.

Audi said that the finished vehicle will be capable of Level 4 autonomous driving on roads (meaning it can run on full autopilot in mapped areas, although still requiring drivers to pay attention to the journey) and Level 3 off-road, requiring just a little more attention on the part of the driver while in the outback.

Though only a concept at this stage, some technical specifications were provided -- including an enormous battery with a range of 248 to 310 miles (400 to 500 kilometers), and hefty electric motors sitting at each of the four massive 22-inch wheels. The motors produce a 320 kW output and a shade over 737 lb-ft of torque, which, while lagging behind a modern Tesla, should be more than enough for drivers to make their way over most rugged terrain. With a robot having recently passed a pilot's test, as recently reported by The Inquisitr, it seems that autonomous off-road driving is just around the corner.

Other fun features include stretched windows for maximum vision when on safari, and hammock-like seats to make the ride just that little bit more comfortable.

Man looks closely at Audi's new AI: Trail off-road concept vehicle
Getty Images | Sascha Schuermann

Much of the public interest is centered on the drones rather than the self-driving electric vehicle, however. Audi's flying illumination concept is based on a rotorless design, with the company's press release claiming that the little devices create lift in the same way which bladeless fans -- such as those made by home appliances-manufacturer Dyson -- create airflow. A snippet from the Audi AI:Trail press release elaborates on this concept.

"The flying objects are Audi Light Pathfinders, which generate their lift in the same way as bladeless fans produce their air flow. Thanks to their markedly lightweight design, they can fly ahead of the AI:TRAIL, consuming comparably little energy in the process, and illuminate the path ahead, thereby replacing headlights entirely. If desired, the on-board cameras generate a video image that can be transmitted to the display in front of the driver via Wi-Fi, turning the Pathfinders into eyes in the sky."
The AI:Trail has been unveiled as part of "a quartet of visionary vehicles," possibly in a bid to make clear its green intentions for future generations of vehicles. With Tesla going from strength to strength, and the increasingly aggressive deadlines being proposed for zero-emission vehicles in many European countries, this move comes as unsurprising. Meanwhile, automotive fans will have to sit with fingers crossed, hoping that the final product looks as cool as the concept.