Audi’s new concept vehicle is an all-electric luxury SUV that uses augmented reality glasses and can double as a small pickup truck, signaling potential future technologies for the Volkswagen luxury brand.
The rear glass of the “Activesphere” vehicle can slide forward, opening the flatbed trunk of the SUV and creating an open-air space for hauling objects. Audi’s calling the modular open cargo bed an “active back,” but consumers shouldn’t necessarily expect to see a production vehicle with the unique feature anytime soon.
“It’s a completely new range and a new possibility it affords to us,” Philipp Gündert, Audi brand strategy, said during a media briefing. “We at Audi are well known for trying out new things with cars … there’s also an Audi tradition to say, ‘Never say never.’ Although there’s no concrete plans, yet.”
Automakers routinely use concept vehicles to gauge customer interest or show the future direction of a vehicle or brand. The vehicles are not meant to be sold to consumers.
The augmented reality glasses are used to view the gauges, controls and other elements that would typically be displayed via screens. With no screens, the dashboard is clean and unobstructed, allowing occupants to focus on their external surroundings or design elements of the vehicle.
Audi describes the controls as an “invisible” or “digital” layer of vehicle controls and information. The displays, which it’s calling “Audi Dimensions,” change based on where the driver is looking as well as their expected needs. Everything can be controlled with hand gestures.
The glasses could hypothetically be used inside the vehicle as well as during activities such as golf or hiking for distances, navigation and other things. Augmented reality glasses layer things over actual things as opposed to virtual reality, which is an all-encompassing separate environment.
Like the “active back,” the augmented reality glasses are a concept of what could be in future vehicles but aren’t necessarily meant for production vehicles anytime soon.
Audi emphasized that it has no plans to make its own augmented reality glasses. Instead, it would work with partners to integrate the technology with the vehicle.
The vehicle features a retractable steering wheel for human driving that would stow away when the vehicle is in self-driving mode, a technology included in all of Audi’s “sphere” concept vehicles.
The term “sphere” is meant to symbolize the interior space of the vehicles for drivers and passengers, according to Audi, essentially turning vehicles into another personal experience or living space. This is its fourth “sphere” concept since 2021.
Previous vehicles were the Skysphere roadster in 2021, followed by the Grandsphere sedan and Urbansphere in April 2022. All the vehicles share futuristic design elements and are all modular.
Gündert said there are elements of all the concept vehicles that will make it into production but signaled things such as lights and design. He said the performance Grandsphere is the one closest to a production vehicle.