Audi gave away a few details of the technologies we will be seeing in future Audi models. While some of these are in early stages of development, others will be updated in near future cars. There is no boundary to the Audi’s commitment to different fields, from light weight vehicles by extensive use of composite aluminum and carbon fiber compounds to new infotainment concepts and now the e-tron program.
Here is a glimpse of what the future Audi models may be wearing.
Audi Wireless Charging
Audi is still at least a year away from bringing a fully electric model to market, and like every automaker pursuing EVs, charging is a major component.
To that end, Audi – like Nissan, GM and others – is patterning with WiTricity Corporation from Boston, which manufacturers a coil-based inductive charging system that utilizes one coil installed in the ground and tapping into the grid, with another coil mounted underneath the vehicle. Alternating current in the embedded coil creates an alternating magnetic field that flows through the air and sends the voltage to the car-mounted coil. It can be mounted anywhere and according to Audi isn’t just safe, but the system isn’t affected by rain, snow or ice.
ETA: Two to three years.
Garage Parking Pilot
Automated parking is almost becoming old hat on high-end models, and Audi’s parking assistant is already available on the A4 and A6. Audi is taking it a step further with the addition of a parking space finder that locates nearby lots and garages (possibly incorporating the aforementioned wireless charging), but it won’t stop there – literally.
When the vehicle reaches the entrance of the garage, the local wireless network detects the car’s arrival and a “digital thread” allows the driver to take his or her hands off the wheel and the be autonomously piloted directly to his space. Vehicle-to-vehicle networking should ensure collisions aren’t an issue, and when you’re done dining or catching a flick, you simply open an app on your smartphone to have your car waiting for you at the entrance.
ETA: About ten years.
Audi was among the first automakers to offer full LED lighting on its vehicles, and the next logical step is the use of OLEDs, or “organic light emitting diodes.”
If you follow the consumer electronics industry, you’ve seen OLED technology used in everything from smartphones to TVs. Unlike LEDs, which are made up of semiconducting crystals, OLEDs are an organic polymer that act like semiconductors. This pastey material is only a few nanometers thick and spans the space between the anode and cathode, both of which are enveloped in an electrically conductive coating.
Long story short, OLEDs are incredibly light, very flexible and can produce millions of colors in a variety of intensities when stacked together. Not only that, but they’re just as efficient – if not more so – than standard LEDs.
Audi plans to use OLEDs in everything from side markers to interior lights, and could even provide drivers following another car information about that vehicle’s speed and braking.
ETA: Two years.
Hybrid Body Materials
Audi has been at the forefront of lightweight chassis development, using aluminum to reduce overall vehicle weight by as much as 40 percent when compared to a standard steel chassis. The next step is a mixture of aluminum, steel and fiber-reinforced components that both reduce weight and increase strength.
By reinforcing an aluminum component – say a suspension piece – with carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), its strength can be increased dramatically without a commensurate increase in weight.
ETA: Less than two years
FRP Coil Springs
Reducing unsprung mass improves both handling and ride comfort, so anything that can be done to remove weight from within the wheel arches is worth exploring. And one area that hasn’t seen much innovation is the standard coil spring.
That’s about to change with the introduction of the fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) spring, which replaces the usual steel springs for a weight savings of more than 40 percent.
Audi is developing a technique for creating these FRP springs that involves a fiberglass helix baked together with an epoxy resin, followed by a metal alloy wire that’s woven into the spring. The process is actually quicker than the traditional method of creating a steel spring and the result isn’t just a lighter spring, but a stronger one.
ETA: The first application will be in the 2012 Audi R8 e-tron, with mass adoption coming the following year.
The Audi Touchpad – originally fitted to the A8 – was the first application of a touch-based input pad in a vehicle, and Audi will be bringing a revised version that’s integrated into the MMI knob in the 2013 A3.
Beyond that, Audi is working on a new multitouch system similar to that found on smartphones and tablets that incorporates tactile feedback, and partnered with new head-up displays, voice controls and gestures, hopes to reduce driver distraction while increasing control.
ETA: Around 2015.
Mercedes-Benz gave us a taste of this technology last year utilizing a series of cameras and lasers to detect the road surfaces ahead and then adjust the suspension to soak up the ruts and bumps.
Audi won’t be left behind and plans to utilize a similar camera-based system that will subtly alter the adaptive dampers by scanning the road 20 meters ahead. In addition to a stereo camera mounted ahead of the rearview mirror, Audi plans to incorporate “photo-mixed detectors” (PMD) that rely on both radar and laser systems.
ETA: Same as the new Multitouch system, we expect this adaptive suspension to arrive in the next A8.