Audi explore space with the game-changing urbansphere concept
24 April 2022
Audi plans to go where no other carmaker has gone before. The German company has unveiled plans to explore space. Not in the context of the final frontier, but in ways which could change the way personal space inside vehicles is viewed and experienced by passengers, blending ‘space and architecture, digital technology, and authentic materials into a single entity.’
Labelled the urbansphere, Audi’s autonomous concept focuses on the car’s interior, packing it with luxury and technology, and essentially expanding the home or office environment into the vehicle itself.
Designed in collaboration with Chinese customers, and jointly developed by Audi teams in Germany and Beijing, it was originally conceived for use in traffic-dense Chinese megacities. However the concept is intended for any densely-packed urban area where space is of a premium.
Described by Audi as a ‘lounge on wheels and a mobile office, serving as a third living space during the time spent in traffic,’ the urbansphere is a radical shift from the traditional notion of the very basics of automotive architecture. Familiar components such as the steering wheel, pedals and standard vehicle displays are absent, replaced by features that have more in common with the office or home environment.
The internal ergonomics of the car are crafted to emphasise a radical alternative to traditional transport. Inside, passengers will be able to engage with a multitude of digital services, undertake everyday tasks, arrange cultural and leisure-based events; essentially continuing tasks normally restricted by physically being inside a car.
Commenting on the urbansphere project, Markus Duesmann, chairman of the board management at Audi AG said: ‘The Audi urbansphere concept offers everyone onboard a wide range of options to use that freedom to provide a highly-personalised in-car experience: communication or relaxation, work or withdrawal into a private sphere as desired. As such, it transforms from being strictly an automobile into an ‘experience device’.’
Third ‘sphere’ project
Audi’s urbansphere is the third radical automotive concept from the Ingolstadt manufacturer. In 2021 Audi unveiled the skysphere, a fully-electric grand tourer (GT) complete with Level 4 autonomy-capability, and an ability to change from a human-driven performance sports car, to an autonomous luxury vehicle at the flick of a switch.
Following on from the skysphere, Audi announced the grandsphere, another Level 4 autonomous vehicle, dubbed a ‘private jet for the road’. Like the recently announced urbanspere, the steering wheel and pedals can be hidden, providing passengers with an experience more closely resembling a home or office.
With so much focus on re-defining the private-car operating experience, and by extension the technology and facilities in the cabin of the vehicle, it is little surprise that Audi have followed other carmakers with the skysphere project, and have focused on sustainability.
Many of the materials in the interior of the Audi urbansphere concept come from sustainable sources, such as the wood, originating from sources grown close to the site, and the entire trunks of relevant trees are utilised. Additionally, bamboo viscose fabric is used in the armrests and in the rear of the vehicle. The seat padding is made of a recycled polyamide, and in turn, this material can be recycled after its use in the automobile. Audi claims that no chemicals are used in the manufacturing process.
‘To make e-mobility even more attractive, we think about it holistically and from the customer’s needs,’ added Duesmann. ‘More than ever before, it is not just the product that is decisive, but the entire ecosystem. That is why Audi is creating a comprehensive ecosystem with services for the entire car.’