Audi's latest concept car, Skysphere, is an electric convertible that changes shape based on the driving mode, has black-tinted windows, and has a digital cockpit that is stowed away when the vehicle is driving autonomously, a press statement from the German car company reveals.
It has all the hallmarks of a car out of a James Bond movie, though its sleek, dark exterior makes it look like something that would be chosen by one of the movie's villains rather than the shaken martini sipper himself.
Planning for a future of luxury electrics
With Audi planning to phase out internal combustion engines and only offer electric vehicles (EVs) by 2033, the company is keen to showcase the types of designs it aims to accomplish within the next decade or so. The Skysphere's driving range is approximately 310 miles (500 km), according to Audi, which is 60 miles more than its first electric sports car, the E-Tron, currently achieves. The Skysphere was designed with autonomous driving in mind, though it does not currently have that capability, Audi explained in its release.
The luxury roadster concept's adaptable wheelbase means that it can change its size to accommodate different driving modes. In order to give drivers more freedom, the Audi Skysphere concept "was designed for two different driving experiences: a grand touring experience and a sports experience," the company said.
The sports car mode is capable of reaching 60 mph in about four seconds, while the grand tour mode expands the car to be 10 inches (250 millimeters) longer, making it a more comfortable experience for passengers who can sit back as the car drives them to their destination. The vehicle’s ground clearance is also adjusted by 10 millimeters "to enhance comfort and driving dynamics," according to Audi. In the self-driving GT mode, the steering wheel and pedals are also stowed away and are no longer visible, adding to the feeling of a relaxing lounge interior.
The new Audi "Sphere" concept family
Audi explained that the Skysphere is the first of a family of three new concept vehicles, all of which use the "sphere" suffix to reflect a focus on the vehicles' luxury interior spaces. The second vehicle, the Grandsphere is scheduled to be unveiled on September 1, while the Urbansphere will be unveiled in the first half of 2022, Audi said.
All of these cars are designed to take advantage of level 4 autonomous driving — a milestone that we have not yet reached and are not guaranteed to attain. Tesla's misleadingly-named full self-driving, for example, has level 2 autonomous driving capability, meaning that drivers must constantly be attentive and ready to take over.
Still, concept vehicles are made to showcase visions of the future rather than a car that's ready to go into production. Though we might be further than previously thought on the autonomous driving timeline — a leaked Tesla memo in May showed that Elon Musk exaggerated the company's self-driving capabilities — the Skysphere provides a tantalizing if slightly sinister-looking glimpse at what the fully self-driving vehicle of the future might look like.