Catalysts for change

Transformation has become an important watchword for our mobility. The transition from the tried and true to modified modes of transportation that rely on highly complex technology calls for fresh thinking in a variety of areas—including design. Which raises the question, what shape will tomorrow’s mobility take? At the recently staged Audi design UNIverse final presentation, students provided exciting new impetus.

Birte Mußmann (copy) & AUDI AG (photo)


It’s already clear today that technologies such as alternative drives, automated and autonomous driving, digitalization as well as connectivity will define tomorrow’s mobility. Using this as a departure point, it is possible to deduce a vision of the cutting-edge car of the future: It’s a mobile device, living space, workplace and smart companion with both service and advisory functions—or whatever variant of these things is currently needed in any given situation. Such advances can already be experienced in rudimentary form in today’s production models and will be successively advanced in the coming years. But what will cars of the future look like when drivers are no longer necessary? What possibilities will interiors hold once the steering wheel and pedals disappear? What aids—for example, controls—will make operation easier? While answering these questions depends to a significant extent on technical components, there is another important aspect that needs to be taken into consideration: aesthetics.

Since it hinges on technological progress, the creative design process is a constant journey. Sometimes it’s just the finer points that change, sometimes it’s the fundamentals—but the road never ends. Fresh impetus plays a key part in taking ideas forward. At the Audi design UNIverse, too, everything revolves around the future of mobility—and especially electrifying stimulus. At this annual event, the Audi design team invites students from international design schools to participate in an exchange of ideas. Over a period of one to two semesters, the aspiring designers receive guidance from the department in Ingolstadt in molding their visions of the future into exhibits that are subsequently showcased at a design forum. The sixth staging of Audi design UNIverse was bannered transformation. As a guideline, this theme aimed to give the 54 students from five universities in Germany, Austria, Italy and Slovakia free rein to pursue bold ideas rather than pointing them in a certain direction. During the final presentation in Ingolstadt, tomorrow’s designers unveiled their work, which focused notably on aspects such as smart design, customization, sustainability and emotional appeal. Audi design expert Klemens Rossnagel was impressed by how passionate the students were about the topic.

Audi CR4, Hochschule München & Mojo – Magic on my wrist, Hochschule München

Audi Zephiros, Politecnico di Milano

The Audi Magazine: In the creative process, fresh impetus is sometimes vital to driving an idea forward. What prospects for the future did you take away from the final presentation?

Klemens Rossnagel: Above all, that experiencing mobility has to be completely redefined going forward. This will involve replacing what is digitally possible for what is digitally desirable.


Sustainability is a pivotal facet of the vision for future mobility. And alternative drives are a guiding light in this respect. During the Design Forum, this topic was also expanded to encompass materials. What opportunities do they unlock?

We encounter sustainability primarily through surfaces. Interior materials give us a direct experience of it through, for instance, touch, smell and sitting in a car. This development is already evident today—sustainability is becoming an ever more important quality criterion that customers want to be able to touch and feel.


Autonomous driving is the big game changer. When, looking ahead, we no longer have to drive cars but are simply passengers, travel time could be used very differently. What changes will this bring about in interior design?

As driving responsibilities fall by the wayside, new freedoms will open up. Although we are following through on work-related functions, demand for these is lower than interest in opportunities to use the time in personal ways—to relax, enjoy entertainment and keep in touch with friends. The experience of driving is being redefined with the emergence of an new area which you could call pleasure mobility.

As part of the Audi design UNIverse, controls such as Audi CR4 and Mojo took the spotlight. In addition to ideas such as sKin, the communicating dashboard. These projects were exhibited under the working title, “Everything will turn smart.” Will projects of this kind be feasible in the near future?

Even though some approaches were overly optimistic, I believe the concepts have what it takes to become reality thanks to the dramatic rate of technological progress. Which is why we encourage the students to be audacious and take big leaps. Often, technology catches up with us. This is why a cautious approach to further refinement is the wrong strategy.

Is there a new working title for the next edition of the Audi design UNIverse?

That, too, is part of a process. Our broad-based approach gives rise to visible structures and themes that many people work on. This means the students come up with the theme themselves. We just have to recognize the patterns that emerge. For the UNIverse, too, transformation means not dictating but acknowledging what comes to the fore.

Audi One Space, Scuola Politecnica di Design Milano & Audi sKin, Hochschule München

Selection of the contributions of the students

Audi Rebellion

FH Joanneum – Frieder Heitmann, Dominik Lavorato

"Audi Rebellion is a future sports car to break out of the everyday life. It creates a joyride with a wood dampening composite that is situated in the drivepod. Different dampenings allow the car the perfect driving characteristics for every track situation. The modular cabins have an unique interior design for different, active and passive, modes and enable a flexible car usage. A seamless exchange of the steering responsibility makes every passenger to a driver or an active co-driver enjoying the rollercoaster experience in the first row with a free look on the street."

Audi Nude

FH Joanneum – Dario Mottl, Maximilian Resch

"Audi Nude is a stripped-down vehicle that defines the term “driving experience” in a new way. With the use of the natural material wood, from which, among other elements, the underbody is made of, the drivers should again feel the surrounding nature while driving and experience themselves as a part of it. Due to the open front, the surroundings can be perceived up close, similar to the ride on a motorbike. You can feel the wind, smell the scents, and perceive everything more intensely. This also makes the experience of speed more intense. With the help of the glass skin, the interior becomes part of the exterior and boundaries will be blurred."

Audi Aura

Scuola Politecnica di Design Milano – Aleksander Krupa, Kartheek Malagondla, Akshay Prakash, Amey Waghodkar, Peng-Cheng Zhang

"“Pure Relaxation Wherever You Are”: The technological advancements can make our life easier. Still, we are overloaded with information that tends to reduce our concentration and kill our emotions. The aim of Audi Aura is to shift the focus toward the human factors, taking inspiration from the YinYang philosophy that puts balance at its center. The essence of the project is in the design of the interior that encourages the user to intuitively interact with the car thanks to touch-control solutions embedded seamlessly in the surfaces. The sense of touch is highly stimulated here whereas the burden of vision is reduced. Quantity and variety of information can be controlled according to the user’s mood. Other technologies are applied to enhance the well-being of the users, whenever they are. Aura offers them a sort of decompression chamber on wheel, to relief from stress, invite to meditation, benefit from a better mind-body connection."

Audi One Space

Scuola Politecnica di Design Milano – Julian Bell, Shrikant Durwaas, Berk Kaplan, Joao Raiol

"Audi One Space is a vehicle for the digital nomads. With remote working becoming the norm, people are free to set their own schedules and work everywhere. However, many find the home to be full of distractions and lacking the external stimuli that promote creativity. It can also become a lonely and isolating life with its own challenges of collaborating effectively with co-workers. The concept aims to alleviate these problems by providing a personal mobile office that helps you find inspiration when you need it and gives you a private, distraction-free environment when you have to be productive."

Audi CR4

Hochschule München – Fabian Frieß, Bruno Weicker

"In autonomous mode, the driver’s hands no longer need to remain on the steering wheel and he may adopt a reclined position. To still be able to operate control panels, drivers would have to repeatedly leave their relaxed pose to reach for the dashboard. For drivers to activate the control elements without having to change their position, Audi CR4 is proposed: A ring, worn on the index finger, allows drivers to control essential menu options such as navigation, climate control and entertainment functions. Audi CR4 carries four buttons to be pushed with the thumb. Feedback is displayed on a screen in the steering wheel. Thus, Audi CR4 ensures a convenient and comfortable interaction with the vehicle."

Mojo – Magic on my wrist

Hochschule München – Monika Otto

"In the future, owning a car will be reduced to access to Audi mobility services, managed via an app. The connection to a car could hardly be less emotional. Mojo is a bracelet connecting you to your favourite Audi. Worn on the wrist, it stands for a personal bond to the brand, while serving as a fashion statement. Mojo will summon a vehicle for you and provides access to the secondary functions of the car. With intuitive gestures you can select and activate them. Thus, Mojo brings personality back into mobility services."

Audi sKin

Hochschule München – Christian Hametner, Steffen Moll

"Horse and rider communicate intuitively. In contrast, the communication between a vehicle and its driver has to be bridged by displays and control elements. As soon as the car switches to autonomous mode, the driver becomes a passenger. As such, he is less attentive to traffic, and easily scared by unanticipated driving maneuvers. That way, confidence in the system may be lost. To keep the passengers informed about the vehicles actions, “sKin” is introduced. With its flexibly mounted tiles on a dashboard “sKin” warns by acoustic and visual signals if sudden events occur on the road. They tilt in wavelike patterns, drawing attention to specific locations. Thus, the passenger is mentally and physically less stressed by sudden maneuvers. Last but not least, this form of vehicle-to-passenger communication strengthens the passenger’s confidence in autonomous vehicles."

Audi Zephiros

Politecnico di Milano – Ferdinando Avallone, Samuele Dell’Oro, Vincenzo Laviola

"Audi Zephiros is a small 2-seats hybrid sports car with a double soul makes you enjoy the curvy roads like a GT, able to face chicanes and kerbs like a race car. The design starts from aerodynamics, but every lines and volumes are drawn to thrill and pleasure the eye. The double character is expressed by the idea of metamorphosis: the vehicle architecture is moulded to obtain low air resistance and reduce emissions and fuel consumption. On the other hand higher grip and control are obtained with high vertical loads, allowing to decrease time lap on track while improving the driving pleasure."

Aesthetics of porcelain

Academy of Fine Arts and Design Bratislava – Laura Šunová

"In this project I focus on work with ceramics, especially porcelain. Porcelain for me is exceptional material, expressing simplicity, purity and authenticity, also prominently present in the Audi brand. This material is unique in that it allows working with the finest detail, achievable with human hand, while still without digital technology. In porcelain, I can create microstructures, serving various functions and apply them on the dashboard. The goal was to create esthetically appealing object on the frontier in between art and design."

Nautiloos – study of sustainable materials

Academy of Fine Arts and Design Bratislava – Tomáš Jančařík

"We set out to explore materials of the underwater world and their possible use in vehicles of the future. Seaweed as a seaborne plant, rich in natural polymer, masterfully recycling sea minerals. Mother of pearl as a natures own composite material, tough and resistant to impact, that has just now been successfully recreated in laboratory for the first time. Could mother of pearl be aluminium of the future? Could seaweed based, biodegradable materials substitute plastic and leather? What new possibilities to create ambient and experience of exclusive sustainability can these materials provide?"