It's not every day you sit in the back of a car, with no driver in the seat ahead, and feel almost relaxed as the vehicle accelerates on its own accord. But on the rooftop of the Aria hotel in Las Vegas, as part of CES 2020, that's exactly the scene, as Audi demonstrated its AI:ME city concept car.
The AI:ME - say that as "Amy", how cute - is a capsule of technology and comfort. Its striking visuals cut a modern, futuristic shape; those huge 23-inch wheels adding muscle to an otherwise fairly gentle and undulating surface; one that's covered in extended lighting beyond the usual headlights arrangement, as part of the car's 360-degree communication.
But it's really inside where it matters: the spacious interior, even to the rear, is light and airy, especially as the roof is almost entirely glass to let in stacks of light. Enter AI:ME through the suicide doors, which open the car out to expose the whole interior, and the almost sofa-like seating doesn't feel like your average rear-seat trip.
As much as the AI:ME's job is to cart passengers around with an open view of the world, however, Audi is exploring beyond this with the introduction of virtual reality (VR) experiences. We duly don a VR headset and are dropped into a mountainous region of China, a yellow dragon our floating companion, twirling through the terrain.
In that sense, then, the AI:ME is about taking its passengers to another place; to not even think about the very concept of driving or taking a ride to a destination. It's a surreal experience, because while VR can sometimes induce nausea, the slow movement in this instance was almost comforting.
So is the AI:ME a realistic vision of the future? Increasingly car manufacturers are developing similar proposals, as autonomous becomes a more talked about idea in the fabric of society. We doubt it'll be here for a number of years, but if it's as comfortable an escape as this then, well, bring it on.