Audi’s Hackenberg future vision: tech, batteries, brains

JC Torres - Mar 12, 2015, 4:10am CDT
Audi’s Hackenberg future vision: tech, batteries, brains

It is an exciting time for the automotive industry, with the convergence of different types of technologies ready to have cars zooming to the future. And Audi, naturally, is ready to face the future and make it real. That is the message that Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, member of Audi’s board for management for Technical Development, is giving out at the company’s annual press conference. For the car maker, 2014 was the “year of technical milestones, tests and records.” Hackenberg belives that 2015 and beyond will build on those lessons and turn them into technologies and products that will excite consumers.

For the years ahead, Audi will focus on three main areas of development, each with specific goals, not to mention specific cars, in mind, all of which have already been prefigured in existing models and concepts. Audi will be bringing the new design language formulated by Marc Lichte to the forefront. The new Head of Design’s vision for a new look that still bears Audi’s distinctive sportiness has already been witnessed in the Prologue last November and the Prologue Avant last month. This “muscular yet flowing” design will be flowing from concept actual production models in the upcoming Audi A8, A7, and A6.

Like many auto makers, Audi is also investing a lot in technology inside cars, from dashboards to connectivity to piloted driving. The Prologue concept sported a novel idea that turned the entire front of the dashboard into one whole touch display. Audi’s virtual cockpit premiered in the Audi TT April last year and again in the Audi Q7 last December. And also in the Q7, we saw Audi’s self-made Android tablet that was custom made not just with software but with special materials and construction that befits an in-car equipment. All of these, however, will converge in the new Audi A8 that is set to debut in 2017. This will be the first Audi car to brave the transition from assisted driving to completely piloted driving, with traffic-jam and parking pilot features. Audi has already tested its piloted driving in Germany, Asia, and in the US, where it drove with journalists on public roads in two states. Audi believes it already has the technology in hardware and artificial intelligence, which will learn from every driving period and save its knowledge on the cloud, will do the rest.

Car technology is simultaneously progressing on another front: in making engines more environment-friendly. Yes, Audi is also heavily investing in electricity-powered cars, whether in hybrids or battery-electric drive systems. Audi’s R8 e-tron is so far its “sportiest” offering when it comes to electric cars, with a range of 450 km thanks to its 90 kWh fluid-cooled lithium-ion battery. That, however, might soon be eclipsed in three years’ time. 2018 will see Audi unveiling a yet to be named battery-powered vehicle that will deliver a range of 500 km. But more than power, the sports activity vehicle will also flaunt a new design that will become the signature look of Audi’s e-tron and battery-electric vehicles.

These are definitely exciting times, especially for Audi and its fans, and it seems that the car maker has all its eggs lined up and ready to hatch. The next three years or so will definitely be worth watching, whether you like cars or not, as technology and automobiles converge even more, making the world a truly smaller, but hopefully safer, place.

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