Made for China — Welcome to the Urbansphere

Riley Riley

Most cars are designed from the ground up. Not so Audi’s latest electric concept the Urbansphere — it’s been designed from the inside out.

Styled in collaboration with customers, the Urbansphere offers a radical vision for the future of urban travel — in the context of China at least.

Chinese car owners prefer traditionally to be chauffeur driven, so the size and opulence of the back seat is paramount, so much so that manufacturers often offer extended wheelbase versions of their cars in the Chinese market.

A longer wheelbase (distance between axles), allows for more rear legroom and more interior space generally.

So it was that the Audi urbansphere has been created for use in traffic-dense Chinese megacities, although Audi is quick add the concept is also suitable for any other metropolitan centres of the world.

The concept offers the largest interior space of any Audi to date, together with technology and digital services that appeal to all the senses, offering a whole new experience.

“In order to meet the demands of our Chinese customers, Audi’s design studios in Beijing and Ingolstadt worked together closely to jointly develop the Audi urbansphere concept car,” says Markus Duesmann, Chairman of the Board Management at AUDI AG and responsible for the Chinese market.

“For the first time, potential customers in China could also take part in the development process, contributing their own desires and perspectives as part of a process known as co-creation.”

The Urbansphere is a veritable lounge on wheels that doubles as a mobile office, serving as a third living space during time spent in traffic.

Automated driving technology transforms the interior, where a steering wheel, pedals, or displays are notably absent — into a mobile interactive space that provides a gateway to a wider digital ecosystem.

The concept is 5.51 metres long, 2.01 metres wide and 1.78 metres high, with an unrivaled wheelbase of 3.40 metres.

The interior is not subject to the conventional constraints of car design, prioritising ample space as a comfort feature in itself.

“To make e-mobility even more attractive, we think about it holistically and from the customer’s needs,” says 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.

“The Audi urbansphere concept also 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 — it transforms from being strictly an automobile into an experience device.”

The vehicle takes care of everyday tasks that go beyond the ride itself, such as making dinner reservations or shopping online from the car.

In addition, the autonomous concept is able to pick up its passengers at home and independently takes care of the chores of finding a parking space and charging the battery.

Customised infotainment offerings are also available, such as the seamless integration of onboard music and video streaming services.

Audi will also offer customers exclusive perks, including access to concerts, cultural events, and sporting events based on their individual preferences.

The doors of the Audi urbansphere concept open from the centre; there is no B-pillar, with four individual seats in two rows that offer luxurious first-class comfort.

In Relax and Entertain modes, the backrest can be tilted up to 60 degrees while leg rests extend at the same time.

While conversing, the seats can be turned to face each other on swivel bases.

For those who prefer peace and quiet, a privacy screen mounted behind the headrest can conceal their head from someone sitting next to them.

In addition, each seat has its own sound zone with speakers in the headrest area, while monitors are also built into the backs of the front seats.

When passengers want to enjoy the infotainment system together, a large transparent OLED screen drops from the roof.

Urbansphere also qualifies as a ‘wellness’ zone.

Stress detection uses face scans and voice analysis to determine how passengers are feeling and offers personalised suggestions for relaxation, with a meditation app that can be used via the personal screen and private sound zone in the headrests.

Many of the materials in the interior of the Audi urbansphere concept, such as the hornbeam veneers, come from sustainable sources.

Wood and wool, as well as synthetic textile fabrics, are used in paneling, seat coverings, and floor carpets, all of which have a high-quality feel and are pleasant to touch.

Interior color zones become lighter from top to bottom and, together with the natural light entering the space, create a homogeneous, wide interior.

Seat padding is made of Econyl, a recycled polyamide that can be recycled without any loss of quality.

Bamboo viscose fabric is used in the armrests and in the rear of the vehicle.

One special tribute to China is a self-illuminating umbrella.

Inspired by traditional Chinese umbrellas, it acts as a protective companion and multifunctional light source.

The inner skin of the umbrella is made of reflective material, so the entire surface acts as a glare-free lighting unit.

It not only gives users a better view of their path, it also becomes more visible when crossing a street or in dangerous situations, activating a rhythmic flashing of the luminous cone by means of artificial intelligence and sophisticated sensor technology.

The Light Umbrella also evenly illuminates their face for perfect selfies whenever needed.


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