Audi Urbansphere is a self-driving luxury car designed for Chinese megacities

Audi has imagined a vehicle mainly intended for transport in Chinese megalopolises. Designed from the inside out, the Urbansphere is a commuter that promises personal space, which is rare in these dense metropolitan areas. This effectively results in a spacious cabin that intelligently bridges the physical and the digital to help promote a sense of well-being on the go.

The Urbansphere was designed and developed in collaboration between Audi’s creative studios in Beijing and its German headquarters in Ingolstadt. And (a new concept for the company), local potential customers participated in the process, contributing their desires and experiences to the development.

The interior feels like a living room with enough tech on board to serve as a mobile workspace. The Chinese customers involved in the research project wanted to use their time in commuter traffic for work, rest or entertainment. That’s perfectly possible since the Urbansphere is envisioned as a car of the future, so it’s driverless with the latest Level 4 automated technology turning the interior into one without the need for a steering wheel, pedals or screens.

This latest concept joins two others from the “Sphere” family, the Skysphere and the Grandsphere, both presented last year as Audi’s vision of how it envisions the mobility of tomorrow. The electric-powered Skysphere roadster shows off a self-driving GT that transforms into a self-driving variable-wheelbase sports car. Meanwhile, the Grandsphere concept is a large four-seat sedan showcasing the brand’s ambition to define the future of what it sees as progressive luxury.

This Urbansphere concept is a real study of design from an interior point of view. The doors are therefore counter-hinged front and rear – there’s no B-pillar – so everyone inside opens up for passengers as they board. The seats swivel outwards and a carpet of red light is projected onto the floor beside the vehicle transforming the act of entering the car into the theatrical touch that has become increasingly essential to the driving experience. luxury.

At 5,510mm long, 2,010mm wide and 1,780mm high, the Urbansphere is the largest model of the trio. Yet instead of filling this generous space with lots of seats and gadgets, designers used the 3,400mm wheelbase to provide a large, open, furniture-free cabin space with very few visual distractions.

The design resembles a first class airline cabin. There are four individual seats in two rows, with rear seats adjustable so that the back reclines to 60 degrees and the leg rests extend fully to form a daybed. The seats also adapt to changing social needs so that, while conversing, passengers can turn to face each other in their swivel chairs. Or, for a bit of privacy, they can hide their head from the person next to them with the help of a privacy screen mounted behind the headrest. In addition, each seat has a sound zone with loudspeakers in the headrest area, while individual monitors are also integrated into the backs of the front seats.

Naturally, being a vehicle imagined for the near future, the car offers integrated digital services from other providers to access other travel-related services. In practical terms, this means that the Urbansphere can take care of your daily tasks, whether it’s making dinner reservations, shopping, picking you up and taking care of tasks independently. such as finding a parking space and charging the battery. Other ideas explored down the line include the car recommending personalized concerts and cultural and sporting events.

And the Urbansphere can turn into a cinema. When summoned, a large transparent OLED screen swings vertically from the roof area into the area between the rows of seats. It takes up the full width of the interior so the two rear-row passengers can video conference, watch movies, or use the split-screen feature to do their own work.

There’s also a little durability story inside. The hornbeam veneers, for example, are ecologically sourced with wood grown near the Audi site, while chemicals are not used during processing. Seat upholstery is Econyl, a recycled polyamide, with bamboo viscose fabric used in the armrests and rear of the vehicle. And since these materials are installed separately, they can more easily be recycled at the end of the car’s life.

Power is electric with both motors capable of delivering a total output of 295 kW (401 hp) and a system torque of 690 Nm. The car is equipped with quattro permanent four-wheel drive and approximately 466 miles are available on a single charge of battery.

The Skysphere, Grandsphere and Urbansphere are not direct references to upcoming cars. Rather, they are design studies that explore the possibilities of the car as more than just a transport vehicle. They are also research vessels used to determine the best way to use Level 4 autonomous technology, something that Audi and the Volkswagen Group’s software think tank, CARIAD, are working to introduce into the second half of the decade.

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