Given that the cutting edge of 'future transport' development is electronic, it makes sense that Audi is preparing a technology concept car for the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada from 6-10 January, highlighting the latest in plug-in hybrid drives, user control and display interfaces, and lighting technology.
The Plasma Red coupé, a further development the Sport quattro concept shown at the recent Frankfurt motor show, has an e-tron drivetrain rated at 515kW - and 2.5 litres per 100km - laser headlights that literally leave current equipment in the dark, as well as new display and operating systems.
The dual headlights combine matrix LEDs and laser lights. There are two low-profile trapezoidal elements inside the cluster; the outer one generates the low-beam light using matrix LEDs and an aperture mask, while the inner element produces laser light for the high-beam.
The laser diodes are significantly smaller than LED diodes - only a few microns in diameter - and light up the road for nearly 500 metres, giving them double the lighting range and three times the luminosity of LED high-beams. Audi plans to use them on the track in the 2014 R18 e-tron quattro endurance racer.
A WELCOMING HAND(LE)
The door handles electrically extend from the door when they detect the approach of a hand, giving access to the elegant interior, cleanly sculpted in several shades of dark grey, with a slender instrument panel reminiscent of a glider wing, while the carbon-fibre monocoque also serves as a storage compartment in the doors.
The air-conditioning controls are integrated in the air nozzles; a single element controls the intensity, temperature and volume of the air stream.
The multifunction sport steering wheel has two buttons which control the hybrid drive, a red start-stop button, a button for the drive select vehicle handling system and a "View" button to control the Audi virtual cockpit.
Key information is displayed in high-resolution, three-dimensional graphics, processed by a Tegra 30 processor from Nvidia, switcheable from MMI (navigation map and media lists) to Classic, with the speedometer front and centre.
Just about every function of the car can be controlled from a new, more advanced MMI terminal (notice it is no longer called a controller!) on the centre console. The top surface of its large rotary pushbutton, also serves as a touchpad, and it can be pushed in four directions, with four surrounding 'short cut' buttons - for the main menu, submenus, options and a back function.
The menu layout is similar to that of a smart phone; frequently used functions can be accessed quickly; thanks to a new free text search feature, generally just four characters suffice for a navigation address. The driver can quickly scroll through lists or zoom the map image using multitouch gestures on the touchpad, while voice control has also been improved from current production standards.
And all of this will be in Audi models on your local showroom floor within the foreseeable future; we live - and drive - in interesting times.