The tall hood of the concept car extends forward and the steering wheel and pedals are bent. The driver’s side of the dashboard, in fact, has a glass display panel, and the gear selector also pulls away, giving the driver a more comfortable place to rest.
All this is possible because the SkySphere is an electric car powered by a motor that is mounted behind the seats. This means there isn’t much under the hood to get in the way as the front end moves forward and backward.
In its self-driving mode, the SkySphere acts like a touring car, an elegant two seater designed for fast comfortable long distance travel. A long wheelbase — the distance between the front and rear wheels — is good for Road trips as it can give the car a more stable feel on the highway. And without a steering wheel or pedals, the driver can pull out, relax and enjoy the scenery.
In regular human driving mode, it’s like a sports car. A shorter wheelbase can make the car faster, more responsive driving feel. The car also lowers its suspension about half an inch to the ground. When put in its sports car mode, a steering wheel unfolds from under the dashboard and a set of pedals is moved into position in the driver’s footwell.
This shape-shifting is Audi’s attempt to answer a puzzle facing automotive designers. Their advocates say that self-driving vehicles could, theoretically, be safer than human drivers, and offer opportunities to rethink what a car can and should be. But among the challenges they face is consumer adoption from people who genuinely enjoy driving. And Audi, which boasts about the power and performance of its cars, considers those people as one of its main customers. So this car offers them a comfortable compromise.
“We are still convinced that driving is a beautiful experience and we will provide it in the future,” Heinrich Wenders, head of the Audi brand, said during a presentation to reporters.
There’s no real grille in the SkySphere, because electric cars don’t Almost as much cooling is required as a gasoline-powered car. Instead, a grille-shaped aluminum screen beneath a clear cover displays lighting effects that punctuate the change from one driving mode to another.
Specially designed accessories complement the various roles of the car. A pair of blankets are rolled up behind the driver’s seat, ready to use if the occupants in it want to take a nap while the SkySphere drives itself. When the steering wheel is expanded, it also reveals a storage compartment behind the steering wheel that houses a pair of leather driving gloves.
Audi officials said that since it’s just a concept car, the SkySphere can’t actually drive itself. It’s just an idea of how a car like this could potentially be used. It is also not clear whether a length-changing car can be made to pass crash safety tests, he said.
With its tall hood and rear-facing doors, the SkySphere is loosely modeled on a 1930s Horch 853 roadster. Founded in 1904, Horch was the first car company of Audi founder August Horch. He founded Audi in 1909 after being forced to leave Horch. (Audi is the Latin translation of Horch’s name meaning “listen” in German.)