Audi design UNIverse: The car of tomorrow from the designers of tomorrow

My first Audi

The Audi design UNIverse is a hotbed of ideas thought up by young talent. This is where the next generation of designers from internationally renowned universities showcase their ideas for the car of the future.

Global, emotional, progressive – those are the criteria for successful design as far as Audi’s chief designer Marc Lichte is concerned. “Designers have to hit the Zeitgeist – of today and of tomorrow, in Germany and across the world. And they have to succeed in translating their passion into the car.”


This passion is evident among the 76 participants in the Audi design UNIverse. The students have spent a whole year refining their ideas. In the process, they developed their ideas, rejected many designs, sometimes discovered their idea was already out there and started over again from scratch. The brief was different for each of the participating universities – a futuristic sedan, new experiences in the car of the future, a premium service for the customers of tomorrow.


But in all cases, the focus was on the car of the future. Be it Aalto University Helsinki, Scuola Politecnica di Design Milano, Technische Universität Dresden or Politecnico di Milano, certain elements featured in all the designs: The car of the future is driven by an electric motor and the technical components are reduced to a minimum to create space in the interior. The latter has a minimalist design; the operating elements are not recognizable as such and can only be controlled by touch or gesture. Depending on the driving mode, the steering wheel can disappear into the dashboard, because this car drives autonomously – in certain situations, at least. If the car is winding its own way through traffic, the focus for the occupants is on their experience within the car. Augmented and virtual reality, as well as large OLED screens, facilitate wellbeing and provide entertainment.


Is that typically Audi? Is that innovative? Is that global design? These are the questions being put to the participants in every phase of the project. They can at least try out whether their ideas work worldwide within their own microcosm, because everyone is grouped into culturally diverse teams, coming as they do from a wide range of countries – from Australia, to India, to Finland. Students from a total of 14 different nations took part in the Audi design UNIverse. “This kind of intercultural teamwork is absolutely essential in Audi Design. This is the only way we can create automobiles that meet customer tastes all over the world,” says Marc Lichte, going on to cite his own team as a good example – it comprises 400 designers from 24 countries. And the Head of Audi Design is also the best example of how a strong performance in a competition can pave the way for a great career: As a student, Marc Lichte himself won several design competitions, including prizes from German publications Autozeitung and auto motor und sport.

Next-generation designer – Austrian Michael Hofbauer converted his vision of a car of the future into the painted clay model Audi Quantum.

The wheels come from the 3D printer and can turn through 360 degrees. At least with this design, reverse parking is a thing of the past.

Audi Quantum – a car intended as a quantum leap. Aesthetically and technologically superior. And a playful but realistic solution for the brief set by Audi Design: “Create a futuristic sedan.” What does that mean in the eyes of the young designer? It’s the year’s 2030. The Audi Quantum drives forward with a quiet whirr to pick up its customer Michael, who is sauntering casually toward his car. The four rings in the radiator grille switch from blue to red – his favorite color. The gullwing door swings upward, while the on-board music system plays Michael’s current favorite tune. How does the Audi Quantum know all this? It scans its customer’s retina as soon as he or she is within range. The car adapts immediately to his preferences, reading his every wish literally from his eyes.

Do I want to drive myself or let the car drive autonomously? Both will be possible in future, of course, and the design will adapt itself individually.

Michael Hofbauer
Designstudent at Scuola Politecnico di Design Milano

Inspired by a catamaran – Maximilian Schneider derived many elements of the Audi Move from ship design, such as the dual hull of a catamaran which gives it such excellent stability.

This car lifts cues from shipping. The tires, for instance, are evocative of a ship’s propeller.

“Sailing the streets” is his motto. Maximilian Schneider would like to bring the feeling of sailing to the roads of the future. How might this be done? Take a seat, belt up and head for the autobahn. Maximilian grips the steering wheel, puts his foot down and sets his sights on the first bend. The centrifugal force wants to push the Audi Move outward, but the car immediately begins to extend its sides.


This brings stability and the visionary automotive catamaran sticks firmly to the road, even at high speeds. When he gets into town, Maximilian leans back. The memory metal of his seat relaxes and he settles back into the softening upholstery. The bodyshell of the Audi Move lifts itself up and the nimble sports car becomes a compact SUV. This car adapts to the road like a ship does to the swell.

Inspired by smog – Fanny Hauser from TU Dresden would like to use augmented reality to turn the smog of the mega cities into sunshine.

Louvers are built into the chair’s white framework. If the customer wishes a new fragrance or different lighting, they open up and alter the atmosphere inside the car.

The Iconic Seat is the name student Fanny Hauser gave her answer to the Audi Design brief: “True Experiences in the Audi of the Future”. It is a future in which she envisages all cars driving autonomously. So where’s the experience in that? The answer is that we need a car that adapts itself – to the driver, his/her mood and wishes. And a car which creates an experience that appeals to all the senses, and completely decouples its passengers from its surroundings. But what does that mean in practice? Fanny Hauser 20 years from now: She’s sitting in the car, being chauffeured through one of the world’s countless mega cities. Thick smog billows around her. Fanny hates smog. One swiping gesture and, thanks to largeformat screens in place of windows, the gray haze disappears to be replaced by sunshine. Fanny Hauser loves sunshine and warmth, but right now she’s actually more in the mood for some festive feeling. No problem for the Iconic Seat: snowflakes float gently around the car, the louvers in the frame of the driver’s seat open up and a subtle scent of pine needles flows through the interior. The light inside the car is dimmed and her favorite Christmas music plays in the background.

My car of the future creates the perfect surroundings for each customer. Made possible by augmented reality.

Fanny Hauser
Student of TU Dresden

Inspired by the Kunsthaus Graz – The art museum with its round, biomorphic forms had an influence on the designs created by Rumanian Caius Ferenczi.

The strong focus on the tires visualizes Audi’s quattro genes.

Tradition and innovation unite beneath the dome of this futuristic sedan. Design student Caius Ferenczi based his styling on the Auto Union Type C Streamline. The powerfully accentuated tires in particular are highly evocative of the race car from the 1930s.

The young designer chose an unusual approach in creating a modern interpretation of the classic, by venturing a completely new kind of vehicle production. Assembly lines and booming steel presses are passé. The car of the future is made from a drop of viscous fluid shaped into a bodyshell by robot arms. The result is a car with flowing, round forms. One particular feature of the Cruiseris the seats, which swing outward when the doors are opened.n.

nspired by the Pirelli Tower – Design student Alessandro Ren breaks away from the typical car silhouette, instead basing his styling on the Pirelli Tower in Milan.

There is no such thing as standard doors on this car. The driver and passenger enter it via the silver slots on the top surface.


Exploring the city with a feeling of being in space. This is the objective pursued by Italian Alessandro Ren with his Audi Atlantis. Overalls and helmet on – and we’re off! But how do you even get into this flat flounder without doors? Alessandro grabs hold of the silver strip along the top of the car, which is made from iron extracted from a meteorite, and pulls it toward him.

A small opening appears and Alessandro slides through it into the car. There’s a metallic click and the magnet on the back of Alessandro’s suit connects with the seat, making a seatbelt obsolete. Alessandro starts the electric motor and races off. Despite the high speed, there’s no feeling of air pressure – he is shielded by the suit and helmet.


Text (Stephanie Huber), Photos (Ulrike Myrzik)

Recommendations from the editorial team