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Audi's New e-tron SUV Improves on Aerodynamics, Gets 'Virtual Mirrors'

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【Summary】Audi’s new e-tron, the company’s first, fully electric SUV, will have cameras on the doors to replace the traditional, bulky mirror housings. Not only do the camera reduce drag to improve range, they increase safety by reducing blind spots by offered a wider view around the vehicle.

Jacky Ho    May 30, 2018 1:55 PM PT
Audi's New e-tron SUV Improves on Aerodynamics, Gets 'Virtual Mirrors'

Cars of the future may no longer have traditional side view mirrors, or interior rearview mirrors. Instead, tiny cameras mounted around the vehicle can send video to a OLED display for the driver.

Audi's new e-tron, the company's first, fully electric SUV, will have cameras on the doors to replace the traditional, bulky mirror housings. Not only do the camera reduce drag to improve range, they increase safety by reducing blind spots by offered a wider view around the vehicle. The optional ‘virtual exterior mirrors' will be making their world premiere in the volume-production version of the Audi e-tron prototype.

The cameras are much narrower than the standard mirrors and reduce the vehicle width by 15 centimeters (5.9 in). In addition, the cameras noticeably decrease wind noise.

The side cameras capture images which appear on OLED displays in the transition between the instrument panel and door for easy visibility by the driver. The virtual exterior mirrors never need adjusting and can be customized for various driving situations to improve safety. The three available views are highway driving, turning and parking.

The virtual mirrors won't be available for drivers in the U.S. The NHTSA still hasn't approved the use of side cameras in place of actual glass mirror surfaces on motor vehicles, with the exception of rearview backup cameras, which are mandatory of all cars sold beginning in May 2018.

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The Audi 'virtual mirror'

In addition to the virtual mirrors, Audi engineers designed a more aerodynamic undercarriage, which is fully enclosed. Both the front and rear areas are fully paneled. Underneath the passenger compartment, an aluminum plate protects the high-voltage battery against damage from stones, chipping or curbs.

To reduce drag even further, all of the bolting areas come with bowl-shaped indentations, similar to the dimples on a golf ball. They make the air flow under the vehicle much better than a totally smooth surface.

The  e-tron is also equipped with standard adaptive air suspension – a pneumatic suspension with adjustable damping, which lowers the vehicle at highway speeds. At speeds above 120 km/h (74.6 mph), the suspension lowers the vehicle by up to 26 millimeters (1.0 in) below the normal position, further reducing underside drag.

To test the e-tron's coefficient of drag, Audi engineers used the Wind Tunnel Center in Ingolstadt—the world's quietest vehicle wind tunnel— to optimize drag and noise under extreme conditions. The wind tunnel massive fan can produces air speeds of up to 300 km/h (186.4 mph). The Audi e-tron prototype was put through over 1,000 hours of testing in the wind tunnel.

As a result of Audi extensive engineering, the e-tron achieves one of the lowest drag coefficient of 0.28, top result in the SUV segment. For comparison, Tesla's Model X drag coefficient is 0.24. The auto industry considers a drag coefficient of 0.28 or lower exceptional.

For automakers, achieving a low coefficient of drag increases overall fuel economy, or in this case electric range. A hundredth of the drag coefficient figure represents an additional electric range of five kilometers (3.1 mi) of driving under everyday conditions.

The Audi e-tron will be unveiled on August 30 in Europe.


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