Automakers love concept cars that tease a future in which the very wealthy ride in autonomous vehicles that look like luxurious living spaces. The latest is Audi’s Grandsphere, a massive electric sedan with an interior that looks like it was designed by the Kardashians.
The car is designed to be adjustable based on the preferred driving style. If you want the car to drive itself, the steering wheel and pedals retract, leaving you sitting in a minimally designed living room complete with wood trim and wool texture. Instead of a screen, the car’s operating system is projected onto the wooden dashboard surface under the windshield. And when you’re ready to drive yourself, the manual controls just show up.
The Grandsphere is the second concept car in Audi’s series of three that the German automaker said would “reinvent the dynamics as we know it today.” The first was the SkySphere, a sleek, villainous-looking electric convertible with an adjustable chassis. Audi is using the term “spheroid”, which is a three-dimensional representation of a ring, to describe each of these concepts. Still, it’s weird that we’re only getting three concepts like Audi’s logo and not four, but it just so happens.
Audi says it is working with Cariad, the software “think tank” of parent group Volkswagen, on developing some of the technologies that appear with the Grandsphere and other concepts. The automaker believes that these features will be ready for consumer vehicles by the second half of the decade. (It’s best to take these statements with a grain of salt; automakers are very bad at predicting the future.)
Audi sees Level 4 autonomy – in which a car can drive itself without human intervention under certain conditions – as a means of redefining the vehicle’s interior. And the automaker isn’t alone in this theory. Other car companies such as BMW, Volvo and Hyundai have projected similar views on their concepts, with interiors being transformed into the “third space” in which we work, eat, sleep and socialize.
This has long been the target of those who believe that autonomous vehicles have the potential to change society. Of course, autonomous vehicles have fallen short of expectations in recent years, with many companies seeking an off-ramp as timelines stretch and costs pile up.
Audi describes its GrandSphere concept as a “first class lounge with maximum space”. The exterior is also meant to convey similar notes of luxury and refinement, but it also looks deadly – and not in a bad way. Its sprawling shape looks nothing like most sedans, with a wheelbase that’s even longer than the current Audi A8. The automaker said it was trying to match a sedan with a “tightly pulled four-door GT” with an exterior profile. The sloping arch of the roofline is a nod to Audi’s Sportback tradition.
Audi’s next concept will be the UrbanSphere, which the automaker describes as a “private space in an urban environment.” But that vehicle won’t come out until 2022.