CES Asia kicked off on Sunday with an Audi keynote which, like any tech event of the last year, was all about connected devices and the Internet of Things. Audi took this opportunity to unveil its R8 e-tron, a self-driving or ‘piloted’ electric car, which drove itself out onto the stage. Attendees were even offered the chance to take this new model on a test drive around Shanghai.
Audi was the first global premium car brand to enter production in China back in 1988, and currently enjoys the number one spot in China’s luxury auto category. The R8 e-tron signifies the next step, as Audi brings the worlds of luxury and connected technology closer together.
While China has a reputation for innovation, with the most billion dollar tech companies after Silicon Valley, it is still not perceived as the most technologically progressive nation on the global stage – but Audi believe that the country is heading in the right direction and moving with the times. With the Chinese government committing “hundreds of billions of yuan” to internet speed and connectivity, the IoT will not be limited to the west, and this makes China an ideal accelerator.
Audi has teamed up with Chinese web services provider Baidu to develop navigation and positioning algorithms which would enhance their piloted car offering. This partnership will yield full access to a wide array of Baidu apps, including the popular Baidu Maps and Baidu Search, making Audi a forerunner at the intersection of the Chinese mobile and auto industries. As Audi AG Chairman Rupert Stadler points out: “A premium car is the largest mobile device.”
It appears that the next generation of Audi motors will all be piloted; the company intends to invest €24 billion in future tech by 2018, with plans afoot to launch a driverless SUV in the same year. Audi’s vision for 2020 is a battery-powered vehicle in every household. “This is the new normal,” says Stadler. “It will not stop.”