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Image credit: Roberto Baldwin, Engadget

Audi wants autonomous cars to run errands while you're at work

And they could arrive as early as 2019.
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Audi laid out its plans for autonomous vehicles and how it intends to use AI to us back in July, and now the automaker is ready to show off what it's been working on. At this year's IAA auto show in Frankfurt, Audi debuted the AIcon and ElAIne (above and below), a pair of cars capable of Level 4 autonomy (conditional, but fully automated driving) that it claims are empathetic to their drivers' needs. "They will be able to continually interact with their surroundings and passengers, and thus adapt themselves in a better way than ever before to the requirements of those on board," Audi wrote in a lengthy press release.

Gallery: Audi Elaine Concept Car | 7 Photos

The idea is that, through machine learning, the platform will be able to anticipate what you want before you ask. The example Audi gives is one of its cars suggesting a service (think: Indian take-out or maybe a spa day) and booking it for the driver like a personal assistant might.

This also applies to things like music selection and your freeway driving style (average speed and distance from other cars). And because the information is stored in the cloud versus your locally, it can transfer across other vehicles -- you won't have to retrain your AI just because you buy a new ride. Audi Fit is at play here too, working to ensure a less stressful driving experience by suggesting breathing techniques and seat massages, using biofeedback and a wearable device.

Audi has already shown off the A8's Level 3 autonomous capabilities (conditional, but fully autonomous driving for traffic jams), and it's using the AIcon and ElAIne as showcases for Level 4 driving. The highway pilot system will take over from the driver on the interstate, automatically change lanes and pass slower drivers.

More than that, Audi dreams of a future where its AI Zone parking spots that you can park at, leave and your car will run errands for you.

"From there, the car drives automatically and unoccupied into a multistory parking garage offering a variety of services, such as a car wash, a package station, a gas station or a charging post," the press release said. The tech will allow for the car to pick you back up at the AI Zone at a predetermined time, too. It's also "almost ready" for production.

Audi confirmed to Motor Authority that could be as soon as 2019, for a 2020 ElAIne-like production model.

"This car won't be coming to the US, but something much like it will," Audi of America's CEO Scott Keogh told the publication. "You can see it in the shapes that we have already with the A7 fastback and others like it, so what I would expect is something like this will be coming, and soon."

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