Audi has unveiled the Urbansphere, the third next-generation concept car designed to showcase the future of autonomous vehicle design based on an electric architecture.
The Urbansphere, which takes the form of a large SUV, follows the Skysphere, a shape-shifting roadster concept, and the Grandsphere, a sedan described as a “private jet for the road”. Like the previous two concept cars, the Urbansphere is designed for level four autonomous driving.
Based on the exact Premium Platform Electric (PPE) architecture as the Grandsphere, the Urbansphere measures 5510mm in length, 2010mm in width and 1780mm in height, with a wheelbase of 3400mm – making it significantly more significant than the company’s AI: ME crossover concept revealed in 2019.
It is the German company’s largest vehicle to date. The largest model Audi currently sells is the Q7 SUV, almost 500 mm shorter and has a wheelbase of 2994 mm.
At the front of the vehicle is an octagonal fascia that replaces the traditional grille and consists of a LED “digital light surface” that the company has dubbed Audi Light Canvas. A similar rectangular arrangement is found at the rear of the car.
Despite the Urbansphere’s size, Audi says it has been designed with megacities aimed at the Chinese market. The design itself was completed using a “co-creation” approach with the company’s design studios in Beijing, considering customers’ “human needs” in the city.
The result, Audi says, is a “completely new approach” to car design. “This is a car that has been designed from the inside out,” Audi said. “We have taken the requirements that our customers have for the interior of a car like this and applied them to the interior. They were the focus of our development work.”
The Urbansphere has front and rear doors that swing in opposite directions and has no B-pillar. The seats swivel outwards to facilitate access when entering, while a “red carpet of light” is projected onto the floor. According to the company, the car can be used as a lounge or a mobile office, offering owners a third living space when stuck in traffic.
Audi says many of the materials used in constructing the model come from sustainable sources. The wood used in the interior comes from areas near the production site, while the model’s seats are made from recycled polyamide.
In keeping with the self-driving ethos, the Urbansphere’s steering wheel, pedals and dashboard can be hidden when using the autonomous functions.
According to Audi, the Urbansphere’s level-four functions include making dinner reservations or shopping online, picking up passengers from home, finding a parking space and charging the battery.
The Urbansphere has two rows of seats, each with two swivel seats to create a common area for the driver and passengers. Occupants have up to 1780 mm of headroom and speakers on each headrest and a privacy screen.
All passengers have access to a large, transparent OLED ‘cinema screen’ that swivels vertically from the vehicle’s roof and can be used for watching movies or video conferencing. The Urbansphere also uses stress detection, voice analysis and facial scanning technologies to identify passengers’ emotions and offer suggestions for relaxation.
The Urbansphere is powered by two electric motors mounted on the front and rear axles, producing 395 hp and 508 lb-ft of torque.
The concept also uses rear-axle steering and is equipped with 24-inch wheels and adaptive air suspension. Audi says it provides “outstanding comfort without noticeable body movement on city highways and the uneven, often patched asphalt of inner cities”.
The same 120 kWh battery supplies power as in the Urbansphere, which offers a range of up to 466 miles. Audi says the battery can be charged at up to 270 kW, which would charge it from 5% to 80% in less than 25 minutes.
Although the Urbansphere is aimed at the Chinese automotive market and the country’s megacities, Audi says the model is designed for use anywhere globally.
Sike Guse, Audi’s head of brand and communications strategy, said: “The idea was to develop it in China specifically for Asian metropolises, but we believe this concept could also be helpful for other megacities around the world.
“A European design would not be much different. Our aspiration is that this car has to work anywhere in the world. The final elements and fine-tuning were done with Chinese customers, and it’s a little bit geared towards the Chinese market.”
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