Car or Gadget?
When does a car cross the line from automobile to an electronic device? When it makes its debut between two major auto shows at the International Consumer Electronics show. Such was the case when Audi recently introduced its “quattro Laserlight” technology concept car in Las Vegas. The Audi concept car features the latest of the brand’s technologies for plug-in hybrid drives, user control and display interfaces, and lighting technology.
Audi Lights the Way
The coupe is the latest evolutionary stage of the Sport quattro concept family. In the dual headlights, a typical quattro feature, Audi is demonstrating the future of lighting technology by combining matrix LED and Laserlight technologies. Two low-profile trapezoidal elements are visible within the headlights. The outer one generates the low beam light using matrix LEDs and an aperture mask while the inner element produces laser light for high-beam functionality.
Only a few microns in diameter, the powerful laser diodes are significantly smaller than LED diodes. Illuminating the road for a distance of more than 1,500 feet, the laser high beam light has approximately twice the lighting range and three times the luminosity of LED high beam lights.
Display & Control Functions
The interior of the Laserlight concept focuses on the driver. The multifunction steering wheel has two buttons which the driver can use to control the hybrid drive. The red start-stop button for the Audi drive select vehicle handling system and a “View” button to control the Audi virtual cockpit.
Key information is shown on the large display screen in high-resolution, three-dimensional graphics. The driver can switch between different modes. For example, in the MMI mode, the dominant display elements include the navigation map and media lists while in the Classic view the speedometer appears in the foreground.
Nearly all functions of the Laserlight concept can be controlled from the MMI terminal that is mounted on the center console. Its large rotary pushbutton, which also serves as a touchpad, can be pushed in four directions. It is surrounded on three sides by four buttons for the main menu, submenus, options, and a back function.
The user interface has a menu structure whose intuitive layout is similar to a smartphone. All frequently used functions can be accessed lightning fast. For most inputs, just a few steps are needed thanks to a free text search feature — four characters suffice for a navigation address. A driver can quickly scroll through lists or zoom the map image using multi-touch gestures on the touchpad. Voice control functionality has also been intensively further developed.
The plug-in hybrid drive gives the Audi Sport quattro Laserlight concept fascinating dynamic performance. Its output is 700 Horsepower, and its torque is 590 pound-foot. The power reaches the ground through a modified eight-speed transmission to the quattro all-wheel drivetrain, which features a sport differential at the rear axle. The show car’s combined fuel consumption, based on the applicable fuel economy standard, is 94 mpg.
An intelligent management system controls the interplay of the gas engine and electric motor on demand. The driver can switch between three different modes. In EV mode, just the electric motor operates; its high torque propels the car with plenty of power – even outside of the city. The active accelerator pedal indicates the transition to Hybrid mode to the driver – by a change in pedal resistance – so the driver can intentionally influence the mode selection.
In Sport mode, the operating strategy configures the drive system for maximum power. When the V8 and electric motor are boosting, the Audi Sport quattro Laserlight concept accelerates from a standstill to over 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and can reach a top speed of 190 mph.