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Audi AIcon autonomous pilot

The Audi AIcon concept will be used as the basis for future autonomous cars, with a pilot fleet launching within three years
Audi will launch its first pilot fleet of autonomous cars in 2021, with the vehicles based on the AIcon concept first shown at last year`s Frankfurt Motor Show, Auto Express can reveal. The news was confirmed by company boss Rupert Stadler at the launch of the all-new Audi Q8 SUV.

``Our vision of the new premium is why in just three years from now we will present our first autonomous pilot scheme,`` Stadler said. ``This fleet will be based on the Audi AIcon.``

The project will mark 50 years of Audi`s famous `Vorsprung durch Technik` mantra, which translates in English to `Truth in Engineering`. Few further details have been revealed, although the AIcon fleet is expected to boast the most advanced level 5 `hands off, eyes off` autonomous features. This will allow drivers and passengers to effectively switch off behind the wheel completing menial tasks, or even ``have a nap``.

``So autonomous cars make our customers feel more autonomous as well,`` Stadler told us. ``This is where we expand our leadership in autonomous driving.``
The AIcon was revealed at last year`s Frankfurt Motor Show, with the pure-electric four-door 2+2 designed to showcase future exterior styling and interior packaging when there`s no need for a steering wheel or pedals. It is currently unclear whether the cars used for the 2021 pilot scheme will feature the same minimalist interior.

At 5,444mm, the AIcon concept is around 20cm longer than Audi`s A8 L limousine. The car, which can travel around 500 miles on a single charge, is a demonstration of how Audi could use the VW Group`s all-electric MEB platform, originally previewed by the VW I.D. concept. AIcon takes the architecture to new extremes, though, with a 3,470mm wheelbase - again, around 20cm more than the long-wheelbase version of the latest-generation A8.

No powertrain details for the pilot cars have been revealed, but last year`s concept car used four electric motors, one on each wheel. That meant a total of 349bhp, as well as 550Nm of torque. The concept does most of its braking through energy recuperation, so its disc brakes have been relocated further away from the wheels and closer to the electric motors themselves. This set-up reduces unsprung mass and removes the need for air cooling at the wheels, which causes wind turbulence and drag. The all-electric system has also been used to give the car an incredibly tight turning circle of just 8.5 metres - smaller than that of most city cars.

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