audi-concept-ces14-300x207

Audi's CES concept car is a hybrid whose power plants produce a combined 700 bhp (Photo: Audi)

LAS VEGAS --Audi reaffirmed its intentions Monday to be a driver of change as the global auto industry moves toward a new connected model.

"If mobility used to be about connecting places and people, it is now about connecting the driver with the car, the car's surroundings, the traffic infrastructure and all of the other connected elements of their lives," said Audi CEO Rupert Stadler.

In a keynote address at the CES consumer electronics show here, Stadler said the changes in the auto industry are a megatrend that requires a redefinition of the automobile as we know it. Audi, which plans to invest about 22 billion euros in new models, expanded global production and new technologies in the next four years, is committed to being a leader in this transformation. The challenge, Stadler said, is "closing the gap between science fiction and the reality on the road."

As cars acquire more functions, drivers increasingly call for less complexity in handling automotive electronics. Stadler said a new virtual cockpit, which will be available on the new Audi TT 3, goes some way toward addressing this complexity. It can be customized for each driver and automatically presents the most relevant information.

The Audi CEO also cited progress in the brand's efforts to bring a car to market that can, under certain conditions, drive itself. Last year, Audi demonstrated its so-called piloted-driving technology at the CES with a model that had a trunk filled with the computer systems needed to steer the car. This year, the clutter had been replaced by a module that fit into one of the trunk's side panels.

Stadler presented a new concept car at CES, the Audi Sport quattro laser light study, which is a near-production-ready hybrid sports model that combines a 110kwh electric engine with a traditional V8 gasoline engine. The 700bhp car has new LED headlights with laser technology.

Separately, Google announced earlier Monday that Audi and several other automakers and technology companies had joined a new Open Automotive Alliance, aimed at bringing Google's Android platform to the car. Audi's chief technical officer, Ulrich Hackenberg, said the initiative would help bring smart technologies to the car "and make vehicular electronics even safer and more intuitive to use."