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2019 Audi A8, Elaine and Aicon Autonomous Concepts: Frankfurt Auto Show

What Is It?

The 2019 Audi A8 is an all-new generation of large flagship luxury sedan. What that entails at this point in the 21st century is a heck of a lot of technology. Beneath that cool exterior design and within the A8’s aluminum frame is an array of sensors, actuators and processors with the express purpose of relieving a driver from the duller duties of everyday motoring.

There’s a button on the A8’s dashboard marked “AI” — as in “artificial intelligence” — and this is the crucial thing that makes the car the first automated vehicle available to the public. (Level 5, incidentally, is completely autonomous, with not even a steering wheel or pedals.) The Traffic Jam Pilot feature allows the fourth-generation A8 to drive itself in certain conditions without the driver having to be involved. Awesome. There’s just one problem: AI won’t be offered in the United States yet, because there are still some federal regulations to get around.

However, Audi is pursuing AI in a big way, bringing two autonomous concepts to the 2017 Frankfurt Auto Show. One is called Elaine (El-AI-ne), which is an all-electric crossover with “4-door coupe” styling. It can drop a driver off and then go and park itself. This is categorized as a Level 4 autonomous vehicle, able to handle situations like highways and parking garages.

The other 4-wheeled robot concept is the Aicon (AI-con) electric vehicle, a large luxury sedan that’s full-on Level 5, with no controls for a driver. These levels have been established by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), an American organization. As an interesting aside, Audi gives this all-wheel-drive EV a theoretical range of 497 miles from a single charge, even with a muscular 348 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque. That would be truly impressive out in the real world. Both concepts give their occupants time to do other things — and time is ultimately a luxury.

How Much?

It’s too soon to get pricing on the 2019 Audi A8. The 2018 A8 is the last of the previous generation, and that starts at around $84,500.

When Can You Get It?

The all-new A8 is set to arrive early summer 2018.

Add It to Your Shopping List Because…

Even though the current Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series are filled with wondrous technology, the new A8 is expected to take things to another level.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 BMW 7 Series — The most luxurious 7 Series ever, yet still great to drive.

2018 Cadillac CT6 — Makes all the right moves and has all the right toys, except no V8 engine is offered. A turbocharged V6 is still pretty good, though.

2018 Lexus LS — All-new for 2018 and a quantum leap over the old model.

2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class — The major player in this category, as it always has been. Refreshed for 2018.

2018 Porsche Panamera — Dynamics, engines and quality all deserve to wear the Porsche badge.

2018 Tesla Model S — Comes with many semi-autonomous features already. Quick, tech-rich and well-styled. A firm favorite in places like California because it makes no emissions.

Editor’s Note: Since this is new technology, some terms are new or being newly applied. To make some minor semantic differences clearer to the average consumer, we’ve created a separate article that points out the differences and similarities in words like “Self-driving” and “Autonomous.” For consistency, we have also updated the text in this article.

Colin Ryan
Colin Ryan specializes in writing about new cars. But he has also covered trucks, vans, 3-wheelers, even the occasional motorbike. That’s the kind of thing that happens while contributing to the Los Angeles Times, Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Popular Mechanics, Variety, Mazda and Lexus customer magazines, as well as many enthusiast sites and publications. He was also a staff writer at BBC Top... Read More

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