Audi Reveals Plans for Wireless Charging, New Lightweight Components, Predictive Suspension, and More

Audi "garage parking pilot"

When Audi recently unveiled its R18 ultra and R18 e-tron Quattro LMP1 prototypes, it also used the occasion to present a number of forward-looking technologies. (This is in addition to another recent presentation involving OLED lighting and advanced collision avoidance.) The latest crop of gadgetry includes wireless vehicle-battery charging, predictive suspension systems, advanced lightweight materials, and more. Read on for all the details:

Audi Wireless Charging

Wireless Charging: The adoption rates for electric cars are still as low as their range is limited, but Audi is making a serious effort to ease one of the most annoying aspects of EV usage: the constant need to recharge. Together with Boston-based WiTricity here in the U.S., the brand is working on wireless inductive charging. (WiTricity announced a similar partnership with Toyota last year.) The primary coil is placed on top of or under the parking surface; the secondary coil is installed on the underbody of the car. A driver then parks the car directly over the primary coil, and vehicle battery packs can thus be recharged wherever the (costly) infrastructure is installed: at work, while shopping,  and, of course, at home. The technology was showcased in Audi’s Urban Concept, which was unveiled at Frankfurt last year, and we hear the odds are improving in favor of a limited-production run of the radical two-seater. That’s good news, whether they’re charged wirelessly or not.

Audi Garage Parking Pilot

Garage Parking Pilot: Using this tech, a driver will stop their car in front of a properly outfitted structure, get out, and then tell the car via smartphone to park. After that, everything is handled by the car itself: Utilizing its electrically boosted steering and by-wire throttle, it moseys into an assigned parking spot. Since the driver already has exited the vehicle, the cars can be parked extremely close together, enabling more vehicles to fit in a parking structure. This could be a pretty big deal in a lot of ultra-crowded European and Asian cities. We’ve seen the system in operation, and it works.

Audi Predictive Suspension

Predictive Suspension: Similar to the operation of Mercedes-Benz’s “Magic Body Control”(which we drove some time ago on a prototype S-class), Audi’s predictive suspension scans the road ahead to pre-alert the car’s electronically controlled suspension, which can then adjust for the type and severity of upcoming road imperfections. Audi says that it will adopt “nothing less but a no-compromise solution,” which we take to mean a system that operates flawlessly, so we are curious to discover how such setups deal with short, high-frequency bumps as well as road speeds of 100 mph and beyond.

Audi Multi-Touch controls

Multi-Touch and Gesture Controls: Moving beyond the touchpad of its current MMI system, which allows written inputs via fingertip, Audi aims to introduce multi-touch controls that allow you to zoom in or out of maps and menus with pinch gestures, as well as scroll through lists with your finger, like on your smartphone or tablet. The company also is working on a gesture-based system, whereby you don’t actually touch anything to swipe through menus and interact with media, which appear on regular screens or on one or more head-up displays. As our personal gadgets have shown, touch controls are­ intuitive and can enable a wide range of functionality, so we say bring those on. Gesture-based inputs sound pretty cool, but until we can be convinced that swatting at a fly won’t turn on our secret Barry Manilow albums, we’ll temper our excitement.

Audi ultra-light aluminum strips with carbon fiber

Lightweight Materials: In terms of weight reduction, the company has made impressive progress with the current A6 and the upcoming A3, both of which can weigh between 100 and 200 pounds less than their predecessors. Looking farther ahead, Audi highlighted two interesting technologies: ultra-light aluminum strips with carbon-fiber backing and fiberglass springs. The carbon-fiber-enforced metal strips could be used in many places in the car where thin but strong materials are ideal, such as roof pillars or doorsills. The strips are still in the research phase, however, as Audi currently is working on methods to bond the materials together using the carbon’s own resin rather than glues, rivets, or screws. The fiberglass springs, on the other hand, are just about ready for series production and will first appear on the R8 e-tron electric sports car. The cost of the fiberglass pieces is still 120 percent of steel springs, but they are 40 percent lighter and have no corrosion issues.

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