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Audi’s new Elaine concept car can empathize with you

Sven Gustafson

One of Audi's newest concepts might have a pedestrian-sounding name, but its ambitions are anything but.

Witness Elaine, a concept electric SUV coupe that Audi pledges "in a few short years" will be able to park itself and offer automatic lane-changing and piloted driving speeds on highways. It's a companion to the Aicon concept we wrote about yesterday. Both cars feature Audi's AI artificial intelligence system — that's ElAIne and AIcon for you, junior — which Audi says will be capable of learning, thinking and even empathy. (A trait "Seinfeld's" Elaine sorely lacked.)

It'll do that by anticipating the wishes of drivers or passengers and suggest and book a service for them autonomously, like a personal concierge. Think, a piping-hot pizza ready for you at the next highway exit. Users can even follow the vehicle's actions while it's parking itself and add new tasks via mobile app.

"Audi AI fundamentally changes how automobiles are used and significantly enhances the time spent on board," the company says. "The car will become more and more a 'third living space' alongside our homes and workplaces. Individual customer benefits are Audi's main focus, as is the clear relation to mobility. Audi AI's advantages for the customer are clearly defined: The intelligent systems and technologies are targeted toward time, safety, efficiency and customization."

As for the car itself? Audi debuted the exterior in May in Shanghai as the E-Tron Sportback design study and technology demonstration, and Elaine shares its body line, electric powertrain and Matrix LED exterior lighting. Elaine gets 23-inch wheels in a six-spoke design and a 16.1-feet-long, 6.5-feet-wide, 5-feet-tall body that positions it in the C segment, close to the A7. It boasts a clean, simplified interior with touchscreens below the center display, on the center console and in the door trims.

Its powertrain features one electric motor on the front axle and two on the rear to power all four wheels, a configuration Audi says it will use in future models with all-electric drive. Its battery pack delivers 320 kilowatts of power, reaching 379 kW in boost mode, and an energy content of 95 kilowatt-hours. Range is about 311 miles, while charging is done either through 150-kilowatt fast charging or wirelessly through the Audi Wireless Charging system.

Audi reportedly plans to introduce the car to the market in 2019, likely as a 2020 model.

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