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When Audi says it is going to have apps available for download to its cars by the end of the decade, it doesn't mean an app like Bejeweled 2 – it means an app like heated seats. Taking the term "app" back to its more expansive origin in "software application," Audi plans to make cars upgradable after the purchase by allowing owners to download software that would activate hardware already installed in the car.

An evolution of the touchscreen introduced on the latest A8 would provide the user interface. Navigation, chassis, and audio software upgrades are mentioned as other possible uses of instant reconfigurability, but with all that's run on code nowadays we imagine almost every aspect of the car could be touched by the development. Along with making its products more adaptive "learning machines," having equipment pre-installed, even if not activated, would also streamline the build and could save the company money over the long term. It could also open open up an interesting opportunity for aftermarket hacking, but we digress...

[Source: Autocar]


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  • 27 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      HACKERS, UNITE!

      Time to start buying the base model and activating all the uber features. :D
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree, but what happens when you "brick" your Audi? That'd really suck.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Hackers? Brick? Um just plug in the USB to obd and fire up vag com. We've been doing it for damn near a decade to get euro features on our cars now, I doubt this would be any different
      • 5 Years Ago
      pretty sure this has happened forever now. i recall hearing stories of GM A-bodies with all the power window hardware in the door. just no switches connected up to them.
      • 5 Years Ago
      It's a win-win. Audi loses money so they can't afford to put their gaudy LED's in everything, and anyone with half a hacking mind gets a fully loaded car for base price.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The term Jailbroken Audi S4 comes into mind.
      • 5 Years Ago
      It would only save the company money if they have an attach rate (buyers that turn on these features) that is very high. If most consumers leave the options off, Audi loses money on the hardware and labor costs of installing them.
      • 5 Years Ago
      curse you autoblog reply system!
      • 5 Years Ago
      It'd be nice if these savings will actually translate to lower prices.......probably not.

      Looks like I have to take really good care of my '01 A4, might be a while before I save up enough for that S5....
      • 5 Years Ago
      From a volume economics standpoint this makes sense. Audi won't have to engineer, test, get government approval, deal with manufacturing logistics and handle installation complexity issues for every option (or every combination of option) available anymore. There's a reason a lot of automakers create option packages instead of making every option a single tick-box on the order form. It means that they can test large changes to a car's infrastructure in groups instead of every iteration through combinatorics.

      Let's say that the heated seats option requires a different wiring harness for the seat when designing, testing and manufacturing the parts than a non-heated seat. Audi has to go through the whole process for both the heated and non-heated versions all the way down to keeping adequate supplies (but not an over-supply) of these wiring harnesses on hand in their assembly plants. If they simply install the same hardware in every seat, they've saved a considerable amount of development and logistical work. They can run the car through the testing process with one less hardware configuration option to test, significantly reducing the amount of complexity in their design and manufacturing process.

      Obviously, this hardware isn't nearly as expensive for Audi as the option is for the customer. Combine the profit margin built into the price for every customer who pays for it, plus the amount of money and time Audi has saved in development time and it's a very good guess that they'll save money in the long term.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Hernan: You're right about the reason dealers keep a ready stock of new cars in a number of variations. Far fewer people, not just Americans, are going to buy a car the same day they walk into a dealership if a car similar to the one they want isn't ready and waiting for them. Option packages are ostensibly used for ease of configuration for customers, but they really make the development process infinitely easier on the manufacturer.

        Obviously, options packages make the decision process easier to a consumer/dealer, but that doesn't mean the dealer wouldn't still option cars and keep them on the lot for walk-in customers if they had to chose one option at a time.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I thought the reason we had options packages was that US customers want cars available on the lot that they can drive off the same day, rather than order one with the exact specs they want (and wait) as is more common in the rest of the world...?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Am I reading this right? "Audi plans to make cars upgradable after the purchase by allowing owners to download software that would activate hardware already installed in the car." WTF?!?!?! The hardware is there, but I can't use it????
      • 5 Years Ago
      So, I'm going to have to pay extra to use heated seats that are already in the car that I own? No thank you.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Not only that, but you'll carry the extra weight and complexity, whether you want it or not.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It may also mean you have to pay an annual fee for the right to have heated seats, navigation, bluetooth, rearview cameras, adaptive cruise control, etc.
        • 5 Years Ago
        And when one of these un-activated features breaks (it is an Audi) and causes other problems, you will get to pay to have something that you can't use fixed.
        • 5 Years Ago
        all sound reasons this is bs
      • 5 Years Ago
      Sweet! If we can unlock the 4th core on a 3-core AMD chip, turn a GeForce into a Quadro, etc. - I am sure we can unlock Nav...but they will just crush the car when we bring it in for service :-(
      • 5 Years Ago
      The heated seat "app" just made me LOL...but that's not to say the app idea is completely without merit.

      For those with teenage drivers, there could be a parental setting that (a) monitors their whereabouts, (b) warns them of speeding, (c) scales back on the performance capabilities, (d) keeps them from keeping the speaker volume unnecessarily high, (d) keeps them from playing with certain physical dials (and thus keep their eyes on the road), etc. Similar settings could be applied for valets, or (chauvinistic as this sounds) the spouse that doesn't drive the car as often - and therefore isn't used to it's dynamics.

      I know that I could benefit from a Hypermiling app, something that would be a little more involved that cruise control, and help lead foots like moi get the most out of their car's mileage. And any format that makes it easier for the aftermarket to play around with my ECU is A-okay in my books.

      Finally (and this is, admittedly, thinking waaaay out of the box here), what if I bought a fully-loaded A3, then paid for a base-model A8 - but transferred over the options "apps" from my A3 ? What if my spouse then got a base Q5, and I saved money again because she, too, could use my "apps?" It seems silly until you realize that even the R8 doesn't come with the MMI/Navigation as standard. While no one with R8 money should really care about getting nickel and dimed, that doesn't mean they shouldn't be able to save a few bucks if possible.
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