The AI:TRAIL

Added: 18 September 2019

The AI:TRAIL combines the capacity for automated driving with superb off-road capabilities. It is 4.15 meters long and 2.15 metres wide, with a roof height of 1.67 metres, and comes with 22-inch wheels, 850mm tyres and a ground clearance of 34 centimetres. The off-roader can ford through water more than half a metre deep.

The glass surrounding the cabin extends all the way to the ground level, providing unrivalled all-round visibility.

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 bumper at the rear is another separate compartment for dirty items such as hiking boots, climbing gear or wet clothing.

The side sills beneath the opposing doors act as retractable running boards. This makes it easier to load and unload the roof rack. Instead of bulky wheel wells, horizontal wings are all that sit above the four wheels. That makes it possible to see the suspension in action from the cockpit even during travel.

The concept’s electric drive system is arranged around the axles and the battery in the floor. The body is made of a mixture of high-tech steel, aluminium and carbon fibre. It weighs just 1,750 kilograms, despite its high-capacity battery.

Bulky transverse links and MacPherson suspension struts with coil springs and adaptive dampers provide suitable robustness and ensure safe driving stability. 

The tyres feature variable, sensor-controlled air pressure regulation. Optical sensors and electronic stability control (ESC) work together to detect the condition of the road surface and adjust the air pressure in the tyres accordingly. As regards traction, it can be useful to reduce the pressure, such as when driving on sand, and thereby increase the tyre contact patch. By the same token, increasing the pressure again when switching to asphalt increases drive stability.

Instead of conventional low beams and high beams, the Audi AI:TRAIL is equipped with a total of five rotorless, triangular, electrically operated drones with integrated matrix LED elements. They are capable of landing on a roof rack or directly on the roof of the vehicle, and docking onto the inductive charging elements.

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. 

Given that the AI:TRAIL is intended for use in areas without charging infrastructure, the thing that really draws the attention is its range. The stated target with its lithium-ion battery is 248 to 310 miles on roads or easy off-road terrain (in line with the WLTP). On rough ground, where the almost constantly elevated wheel slip alone means that energy consumption is higher, the limit is still an impressive 155 miles.

To meet these requirements, the vehicle is designed to reach a maximum speed of 80mph on the road. The vehicle electronics continuously monitor the energy flow and consumption, thereby ensuring maximum economy even during off-road driving.

The Audi AI:TRAIL is equipped with four electric motors installed near the wheels, each of which propels one wheel directly. As is typical for Audi, the off-roader is therefore a true quattro. The maximum system output is 320 kilowatts and the maximum torque is 1,000 Newton-metres (737.6 lb-ft). Usually only a fraction of this power is mobilised; the drive of just one axle is often sufficient.

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