Autonomous into the future: Audi Aicon

IAA 2017
Fridges on wheels?

If car models become increasingly similar, then only the radiator grille and the marque logo remain to distinguish them.
by Thomas Wagner | 9/21/2017

A profound change in mobility seems to be upon us, and inevitable, and this will mean forgoing habits we have grown to love. Is the automobile industry therefore being modest at the current IAA? By no means. They want the universal self-driving appliance if possible to remain the way it is, with one exception: Where hitherto a combustion engine roared away an electric drive will now hum. Meaning that limousines and SUVs will in future look like they popped out of sci-fi blockbusters from Hollywood, as can be seen from all the i Visions dynamic, Concepts EQ, all the Aicons and Elaines – or whatever the names chosen for what are essentially all very similar ideas of the future on four electrically-driven wheels.

Since we do not yet know when exactly we, linked through Facebook, will move on and in such autonomous litters full of screens, effort is still being devoted to refining the pattern so successful to date: Almost all the manufacturers now produce small SUVs. It’s not as if their large and overly powerful larger brothers, often with a brash and decidedly aggressive design, these escape vehicles for the affluent society fearfully stuffed full of signs of personal sovereignty, have disappeared. It’s just that the smaller siblings are also part of the family. They may suffer from retarded growth, but their genetic code has remained more or less the same – be it the VW T-Roc, the Seat Arona, or the Kia Stonic & Co. 

Electric Blue: Mercedes EQA
Pulsating graphics, sometimes blue, sometimes red: Mercedes Concept EQA

Now automobile design may be a decidedly complex process. But what counts at the end, be it a stroll round the IAA or later round the dealerships, is the result. If when considering the new models you for a moment ignore the key differences in size, engines, power ratings, interiors, prices, image and prestige, then as regards design there are only nuanced differences between Audi and Cherry, Mercedes and Borgward, BMW and Kia. Not a single truly crazy model with, say, a bamboo car-body, shock absorbers made of felt, or psychedelic cabin lighting is to be seen and admired. Is this because in the field of mobility essentially two decidedly techy groups of people rule: the mechanical engineers and the nerds?

Be that as it may, if you take a closer look at the carefully designed faces of the current models, then you may well ask: Have, ever since the horse disappeared and gave way to horsepower, really only the details of this rolling shell been changed? Has simply the basic shape been tweaked, given a refreshing new graphic look here, supplemented by blinking lights there? Is automobile design currently facing the same fate as fridges? The technology used for fridges is by and large the same, only the front, the handle and the interior design vary – and it is an appealing price or brand that decides what you buy. Corresponding features when it comes to cars are the “face” and the radiator grille between the headlight eyes. Enabling you to recognize a marque even in your rearview mirror. The more you can otherwise mistake one model for another, the more emphatic they become: the grille and the logo, marque symbol and label. 

Autonomous sphere for the urban future: SmartVision EQ ForTwo with black-panel grill to communicate with the environment
Open grill with teeth: Mercedes Vision Concept Electric
Closed grill with stars: Audi Elaine
Elliptical: Thunder Power SUV from Taiwan
Needs a lot of air: BMW Z4 Concept
Comparatively modest: Ferrari still has no SUV
Also has teeth: Kia Sorento
Limousine: Kia Stinger
Top wide: Honda CR-V
The front stands for the brand: Mazda CX 3
Coat of arms as identification mark: Hyundai Kona
With Bling Bling: Chery Tiggo Coupé EV Concept
Modest: Chery Tiggo Sx
Markant waisted: Lexus LC 500h
Bigger is hardly possible: Lexus RX 450h
Will not just be noticed in the terrain: Range Rover Velar