CES 2011: Audi announces swappable infotainment processors, 4G LTE

Ford may have been the dominant force at CES for the last few years, but other automakers are finally beginning to take the consumer electronics space seriously. Although Alan Mulally's keynote this morning represented an unprecedented third address at the show, Audi CEO Rupert Stadler kicked things off Wednesday morning, showing off a new MMI interface and touting its partnership with chip-maker NVIDIA. But that wasn't the biggest news.

In addition to announcing plans to integrate 4G LTE technology into its vehicles in the near future, Stadler expanded on its joint venture with Finnish firm Elektrobit to create a new in-dash hardware solution. Dubbed e.solutions, Audi calls it a Modular Infotainment System (MIS) and it allows Audi to upgrade the guts (chipsets, video cards, etc.) of the MMI to keep pace with microprocessor development.

Stadler told us that because new chips come out so quickly, Audi wants to break the infotainment system out from the typical vehicle development cycle (which usually begins four to six years before a vehicle comes to market) and allow customers to upgrade their infotainment system as new technology comes to market. The modular system makes swapping an in-dash processor a breeze – pull out the MMI, swap out the chipset, reassemble and you've got new features, functionality and increased speed. And we should see the fruits of Audi and Electrobit's labors later this year.

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Connected cars for a connected world – Audi extends its lead in connected mobility

Audi is developing the infotainment technologies of the future. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the brand with the four rings gives an insight into its broad portfolio of ideas. These include the subject areas of operation and display as well as the architecture of infotainment modules, along with trendsetting hardware and software concepts. For many developments Audi is pinning its faith on a strong partner – the chip specialist Nvidia.

The Audi e-tron models

Audi is working hard on new solutions for future mobility. In the wide-ranging concept developed by the brand with the four rings, the electrification of the driveline plays a crucial role alongside electronic connectivity. Audi is developing an entire fleet of hybrid cars, as well as a family of vehicles that can drive considerable distances electrically – its e-tron models. Even if the new car line is still very young, it has already taken on a wide variety of guises.

The Audi R8 e-tron

The Audi R8 e-tron is a high-performance sports car with electric drive. Its four electric motors – two on the front axle and two on the rear – are connected to the wheels by short shafts. With a maximum power output of 230 kW (313 hp) and 600 Nm (442.54 lb-ft) of torque available from stationary, the R8 e-tron accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h (62.14 mph) in 4.8 seconds; its top speed is limited to 200 km/h (124.27 mph).

The technology demonstrator inside the body of the Audi R8, which Audi plans to build on a small scale from the end of 2012, is among the very finest electric sports cars. Its package does justice to the specific qualities of the new technology in every detail. The large, liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery and the power electronics lie directly behind the passenger compartment.

This arrangement produces an optimal center of gravity and a weight distribution of 42:58 between the front and rear axles.

The lithium-ion battery in the Audi R8 e-tron consists of a large number of individual cells of high energy density that are wired together. The 550 kilogram (1212 lb) battery stores 53 KWh of energy, with an effective 42.4 kWh of power – enough to cover about 250 km (155 miles) according to the NEDC cycle. When the battery is entirely discharged, it takes between six and eight hours to charge it up from a 230V supply; with a heavy current supply the process takes around two and a half hours. The battery is also recharged by means of recuperation from braking and retardation phases. The driver can select the degree of energy recovery at shift paddles on the steering wheel.

The drive torque acts largely on the rear axle, which in regular operating conditions receives 70 percent of the propulsive power. If slip occurs at one pair of wheels, the way the power is distributed changes with lightning speed. The Audi R8 e-tron also manages the transverse dynamics through its four motors. They allow torque vectoring, the selective acceleration of individual wheels and therefore active distribution of torque. Understeer and oversteer can be compensated for very precisely by means of small increases in power and braking interventions – the quattro drive system thus reaches the new evolutionary level of an electric quattro.

Systematic lightweight construction is particularly important for electric vehicles. The body of the Audi R8 e-tron is aluminum; designed with Audi Space Frame technology (ASF), it weighs less than 200 kilograms (441 lb). This is an important reason why the electrically powered high-performance sports car weighs in at just 1500 kilograms (3307 lb).
The Audi A1 e-tron

The Audi A1 e-tron is an electric car with a range extender – it is powered purely by electric motor. Audi has created this four-seater specifically for transport in the world's rapidly growing megacities.

The electric motor, installed transversely at the front, supplies a continuous output of 45 kW (61 hp) and a peak output of 75 kW (102 hp), transmitted to the front wheels via a single-stage transmission. The peak torque of 240 Nm (177.01 lb-ft) is available right from the off. The A1 e-tron sprints from 0 to 100 km/h (62.14 mph) in 10.2 seconds and on to a top speed of more than 130 km/h (80.78 mph).

It draws its energy from a package of lithium-ion batteries arranged in a T pattern beneath the center tunnel and rear bench seat. The liquid-cooled battery supplies 12 kWh of energy. A charging process takes barely three hours with a 230V supply, and less than one hour with a heavy current supply. While on the move, the driver determines the level of recuperation at five-stage shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel. The Audi A1 e-tron covers over 50 km (31 miles) on one battery charge.

For longer distances of up to 250 km (155.34 miles), there is a range extender on board – a small rotary-piston engine with a displacement of 254 cm3. Running at a constant 5,000 rpm, it recharges the battery via an alternator that generates up to 15 kW (20 hp) of electrical power.

The great strengths of the rotary-piston engine are its vibration-free, virtually noiseless operation, compact dimensions and extremely low weight. The entire assembly weighs just 65 kilograms (143 lb), including the alternator, the special power electronics, the intake, exhaust and cooling system, the acoustic encapsulation and the subframe. According to the draft for standardization for determining the consumption of range extender vehicles, the Audi A1 e-tron consumes just 1.9 liters per 100 km (123.8 US mpg) – a CO2 equivalent of
45 g per km (72.42 g/mile).

The amount of space available for passengers and cargo in the A1 e-tron is the same as in the production models. Details such as the roof made from carbon fiber composite material demonstrate Audi's expertise in lightweight construction.

The Audi e-tron Spyder

The dynamic e-tron Spyder, a technical study by Audi, is conceived as a plug-in hybrid. Its lithium-ion battery with an energy content of 9.1 kWh, located in the forward structure, can be recharged from the mains socket; the electric drive operates in tandem with a powerful combustion engine.

Two electric motors with a combined output of 64 kW (87 hp) and 352 Nm (259.62 lb-ft) of torque propel the front wheels. Behind the open, two-seater passenger compartment is a 3.0 TDI with twin turbocharger; it sends 221 kW (300 hp) and 650 Nm (479.42 lb-ft) of torque to the rear wheels via a seven-speed S tronic. Both power units can operate independently or in unison.

All four wheels of the e-tron Spyder can be accelerated and braked individually, creating extremely precise, dynamic handling. The electric motors on the front wheels can be activated separately and a mechanical sport differential on the rear axle distributes the power. This form of torque vectoring represents a further variation on the e-quattro, the quattro drive of the future. The short wheelbase and low weight, achieved above all thanks to the aluminum body using the Audi Space Frame (ASF) construction principle, further hone its sporty character; the axle load distribution is 50:50.

The Audi e-tron Spyder sprints from 0 to 100 km/h (62.14 mph) in 4.4 seconds and goes on to reach an electronically governed top speed of 250 km/h 155.34 mph). According to the proposed standard for plug-in hybrids, it consumes an average of only 2.2 liters of fuel per 100 km (106.92 US mpg), equivalent to 59 grams of CO2 per km (94.95 g/mile). The electric range is 50 km (31.07 miles) and the top speed in that mode is 60 km/h (37.28 mph). With the 50 liter (13.21 US gallons) fuel tank, the open-top two-seater has a range of more than 1,000 km (621.37 miles).

Technologies in the Audi A8 and Audi A8 L

The Audi A8 and the long-wheelbase A8 L are the brand's flagship models – equally in terms of electronic intelligence. Its LED headlights, MMI navigation plus infotainment system with MMI touch, internet connection and assistance systems to name but a few features place Audi's luxury sedan right at the front of the field of competitors. Its innovative technologies have also been transferred to the
A7 Sportback and the new A6.

The LED headlights and LED rear lights

The LED headlights are an area of technology in which Audi is well ahead of the competition. They first appeared in 2008 on the R8 high-performance sports car; since then the brand has repeatedly built on its lead.

The LED headlights give the Audi A8 and A8 L a characteristic look both in daylight and after dark. The light-emitting diodes are maintenance-free and extremely durable. And they consume very little energy – the low beams, for example, consume only around 40 watts per unit, rather less than the already highly efficient xenon plus headlights. With a color temperature of 5,500 Kelvin, the light from LEDs resembles daylight and is much less tiring for the eyes.

This innovative technology has engendered a radically new departure in design. On the Audi A8 and A8 L the low beams comprise ten individual lens modules extending through the headlight in a distinctive arc below the chrome contour known as the wing, on account of its shape. Below this is another arc of 22 white and 22 yellow LEDs for the daytime running lights and the turn signals. Their thick wall technology makes them appear from the outside as homogenous, continuous strips of light.
The main-beam headlights are located above the wing. Their light is generated by two powerful four-chip LEDs and a free-form reflection system; an assistance function switches between the low and main beams. Additional high-output LEDs generate the highway light and the cornering light. Fans and heat sinks moderate the temperature of each headlight unit.

To complement the LED headlights, the A8 and A8 L also feature rear lights using a similar technology. Apart from the reversing light, they consist entirely of light-emitting diodes; there are 72 LEDs in each unit. The tail lights, which consume only 9 watts per unit, form a trapezoidal contour that appears as an even, homogenous strip. Its upper segment consists of a light guide, a transparent plastic tube; a reflective free-form area makes up the lower section.

The five-segment brake light is located inside the trapezoid. When the sedan decelerates sharply, the brake light flashes quickly to warn the traffic behind it, and the hazard warning lights are activated when it has come to a stop. The brake light responds without delay and therefore two-tenths of a second faster than a conventional incandescent bulb – a safety gain for vehicles following on behind.

The assistance systems

Audi offers an extensive range of cutting-edge assistance and safety systems in the A8 and A8 L. They are closely integrated both with each other and with other systems, elevating the luxury sedan to a new level of intelligence.

The Audi pre sense safety system is available in a variety of versions. In many situations it is capable of taking the sting out of accidents and their consequences or even preventing them altogether by warning the driver and braking the sedan with escalating intensity in an emergency. Meanwhile the system closes the windows and sunroof, tautens the belts, activates the hazard warning flashers and selects firmer shock absorber settings for the optional adaptive air suspension.

Audi pre sense front operates closely with adaptive cruise control with stop & go function. The radar-based cruise control system accelerates the car and slows it down within certain limitations. It uses the signals from two radar sensors, a video camera and the ultrasonic sensors, incorporates navigation data and analyzes a multitude of additional information. The operating range of ACC stop & go, the response of which can be finely tuned by the driver, ranges from rolling along in urban traffic right up to top speed.

From a speed of 30 km/h (18.64 mph) Audi side assist monitors the area behind the A8 and A8 L by radar to support safe lane-changing. The speed limit display identifies speed limits and flashes them up in the display for the driver information system. In the A7 Sportback and A6, they also appear in the head-up display. The night vision assistant operates by means of a thermal imaging camera. Its monochrome images are presented on the DIS display, highlighting pedestrians identified in front of the vehicle. If it interprets a situation as potentially hazardous, it shows the person in red.

There are two other systems to choose from in the A7 Sportback and the new A6. Audi active lane assist helps the driver to stay in lane at speeds of above 60 km/h (37.28 mph). A camera identifies the lane markings on the road surface; if the car starts to approach one of them, the system gently corrects the steering.

The parking system, also new, reduces the driver's workload when parallel parking in reverse or parking at right-angles to the road. It identifies suitable spaces either parallel to or at right-angles to the road. The system guides the car automatically into and out of parking spaces – in several maneuvers if necessary.

The assistance and safety systems mesh very closely with MMI navigation plus. The route data from the latter is a useful resource for the control units of the headlights, automatic transmission and ACC stop & go. It enables these systems to recognize complex scenarios and predictively support the driver. The tiptronic, for instance, knows not to shift up unnecessarily just before a bend and the highway light is activated as soon as a car enters the ramp to a highway.

The MMI navigation plus infotainment system
The Multi Media Interface (MMI) from Audi made its debut in 2002 and has since become established as the leading user interface on the market. The A8 and A8 L now feature a new generation of this system. The MMI is standard equipment here, but customers can enhance it with various optional modules. At the top of the range is MMI navigation plus.

This system comprises two blocks. The radio unit combines the functions of tuner and sound system. The main unit integrates other important modules, including a DVD drive, two card readers and a 60 GB hard drive with the navigation data. One-third of its capacity is set aside as memory for phone and music data, and it holds around 3,000 files.

The MMI navigation plus system includes two readers for SDHC cards, a SIM card reader, a Bluetooth interface for phone and media player and a triple radio tuner. It also incorporates equipment specific to certain national markets such as the United States, satellite radio and traffic flow information including Sirius speed and flow data. It can also be upgraded with components such as a six-disc changer for CDs and DVDs. Other options available from Audi include a highly advanced Rear Seat Entertainment system and the excellent Advanced Sound System from Bang & Olufsen.

The Nvidia graphics processor represents the redesigned graphic MMI user interface of top quality and performance standards. The high-caliber graphics and fluid animations shown on the central MMI display and on the driver information system screen in the instrument cluster look tangible and elegant; they vividly visualize the menu hierarchy and make the system a pleasure to operate. The selection menus, or wizards, with their ellipsoidal icons look particularly sophisticated and can be used intuitively. The screens have a high resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. Cutting-edge display technologies with LED backlighting produce razor-sharp images and lush colors even in very difficult light conditions.

For navigation, a highly detailed three-dimensional terrain model serves as the map; this allows points of interest to be represented with meticulous detail. For route guidance, as well as the classic arrow look there is the choice of an animated view with precise notes on junctions and lane changes.

Internet connection

Audi has also carved out a significant lead over its competitors by providing unrestricted, fast internet access. Passengers in the A8 and A8 L can surf and email to their heart's content while on the road, and the driver can use a large number of online services safely while driving, such as those provided by the venture partner Google.

The new technologies are present in concentrated form in the optional Bluetooth car phone online. Its centerpiece is a UMTS module housed in the head unit of the MMI navigation plus. A roof aerial for communication assures a stable connection. The modulation method of High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) achieves a very fast UMTS data transfer speed of up to 7.2 MB per second; encryption using the WPA2 standard guarantees high security. In areas with poor UMTS coverage, the UMTS module switches over to EDGE connectivity technology, which uses the GSM network.

The Bluetooth car phone online incorporates a WLAN hotspot. The passengers can use it to connect as many as eight terminal devices to the internet simultaneously, from laptop to iPad, whatever their operating system.

Only a data-enabled SIM card is needed to go online; the card reader is located in the trim panel of the MMI navigation plus. Alternatively the mobile phone can be paired with the system by Bluetooth if it has the SIM Access Profile. No supplementary charges or separate contracts are involved.

The new technology offers a wide range of convenient services. Drivers can plan their travel routes down to the last detail on their computer at home or in the office, upload them to a section of the website www.audi.de and download them from there to the navigation system before starting the trip.

The luxury sedan also uses the fast connection to load three-dimensional satellite and aerial pictures from Google Earth – another Audi innovation. High-resolution 3D satellite pictures, extensive supplementary information such as photos and information from the web community are just a few of the new, fascinating features.

The Bluetooth car phone online also provides a supply of news, business, weather and travel information that has been optimized specifically for in-car applications. A new feature for the U.S. market is up-to-date information on fuel prices and filling stations.

There is an online search function via Google to find points of interest. The results – with additional information on every destination – are displayed in a results list or alternatively on the map. They can be adopted as navigation destinations at a click; the driver can set up a phone call to the destination with equal ease.

Voice-controlled online destination searches are the latest development in internet connectivity. For this function, the voice control system on board the vehicle operates in conjunction with a counterpart system on Google servers. This makes it even easier and more convenient to search for destinations and reduces distraction from the traffic situation.

MMI touch

The MMI navigation plus system in the A8 and A8 L incorporates another trailblazing innovation from Audi: MMI touch. It is operated in an entirely new way – via a touchpad with integral handwriting recognition.

To search the address book or enter a destination or phone number, the driver writes the letters or digits with their finger on the touch-sensitive control panel; they can also navigate with the map in the same way. This input technique works intuitively and requires almost no familiarization. The right hand rests comfortably on the selector lever of the eight-speed tiptronic. The finger writes the letters and digits almost effortlessly. The system provides acoustic confirmation of each character as it is recognized by speaking it, allowing the driver to keep their eyes on the road.

If the user makes a mistake, a simple swipe from right to left is all that it takes to delete it. In contrast to voice control, touchpad input is possible even while listening to an audio source or speaking to the passengers.

The new technology of MMI touch is based on a network that has been fed with millions of character samples from all around the world. The system is therefore suitable for use on an international scale – it also recognizes characters from many Asian languages. Depending on the MMI operating level, the touchpad is moreover transformed into an operating panel on which six freely programmable radio stations are stored.

The touchpad comprises the sensor module and the computer housed beneath it. The sensor module constitutes the touch-sensitive film incorporating numerous conductor tracks, and the top; white high-performance LEDs illuminate it from below. Special illumination makes the top highly durable; its sophisticated look is preserved even after several hundred thousand inputs.

The touchpad of the future

The MMI touch that Audi supplies together with the MMI navigation plus represents a pioneering new move. But the engineers are not resting on their laurels; they regard this achievement as an incentive to advance to the next level. The next touchpad generation will be appearing on the market in just over a year.

Whereas today's pad takes the form of a separate operating panel on the center tunnel console, its successor will be closely incorporated into the MMI terminal – as the surface of the rotary pushbutton. The space saved will mean the system can also be made available in smaller vehicles. Meanwhile it will be even easier to operate because the right hand can remain in one place, increasing "joy of use". The number of surrounding hard and softkeys will be reduced.

Nor will Audi be content with even this second evolutionary stage – its developers are already working on the third generation of the touchpad. Its dimensions will be slightly larger, integrating all MMI functions; the rotary pushbutton and the surrounding keys can be eliminated altogether.

As at present, the on-board display visualizes all operating steps along the paths through the menus. In parallel, they are displayed in an identical structure on the touchpad. Small sensor actuators beneath the top supply precisely defined, palpable signals and feedback – the user can quite literally feel all operating paths. Audi is already working on development of the third-generation touchpad and considering its adoption as a standard feature of future vehicle generations.

The freely programmable instrument cluster

The display in the instrument cluster will become more and more important in future Audi models because drivers will be able to read it faster and more conveniently than the central MMI monitor. The brand with the four rings is working on an entirely new concept – the freely programmable instrument cluster.

The brand has already unveiled a wide variety of ideas in many technical studies, most recently in the Audi e-tron Spyder and Audi quattro concept. At the
CES 2011 Audi is showing an evolutionary, realistic design that will reach production readiness in the near future.

The freely programmable instrument cluster of the future will take up the position occupied by the current analog instrument. The digital display, a TFT module, measures about 12 inches diagonally, is high-resolution and full-color. Thanks to its elaborate graphics it could, if desired, perfectly reproduce the analog instruments – in a three-dimensional look with light shadow contours.

However the main area of progress in the freely programmable instrument cluster is its impressive flexibility – the driver can decide which displays to call up, in which form. These might be a vivid virtual rev counter, a large 3D navigation map, the image from the night vision assistant, the three-dimensional animation of an operating function or the energy flow chart of a hybrid model.

Depending on preferences and the prevailing driving situation, the display can also show various displays simultaneously or combine them. The driver calls up the new functions via the MMI operating terminal or via the buttons on the multifunction steering wheel; its logic follows the classic MMI menu structure.

Audi is planning to create diverse, attractive display menus, with the emphasis varying depending on the individual car line. Functions that would distract the driver's attention too much from the road are rejected out of hand; if they do not meet the strict safety criteria, there is no place for them. To comply with current legislation, there is one display – digital or analog – that must always be visible: the speedometer.

The head-up display in the Audi A7 Sportback and the new Audi A6

The head-up display is a new, high-end feature that Audi makes available as an option in the A7 Sportback and the new A6. It projects the most important data onto the windshield as symbols and digits. The display takes the form of a virtual image inside a window, the "eyebox", measuring 262 x 87 millimeters (10.31 x 3.43 in). It appears to hover above the engine compartment lid, about 2.3 meters (7.55 ft) in front of the driver, directly in their primary field of vision. The height of the eyebox can be adjusted.

The driver does not need to look away from the road in order to register the information; their eyes, already accustomed to long-range vision, do not need to adjust. It takes only about half the time to glance at the head-up display that it does to read the display in the instrument cluster – an important advantage especially at higher speeds. People whose close-range vision is not optimal will find the new solution particularly helpful.

The driver can select what information they wish to have shown in the head-up display via the MMI – for instance the speed, the navigation symbols, the lists of infotainment systems and the displays for the assistance systems. Traffic Sign Recognition in the instrument cluster also uses the system.

Audi is the first automotive manufacturer in the world to offer a full-color head-up display with TFT screen technology. As well as RGB color filters, new polarization filters are used; their high contrast is sufficient even for very difficult light conditions. 15 white LEDs give the TFT monitor on which the images are generated particularly bright back-lighting. A sensor adjusts the display to the ambient brightness; the driver can also adjust it at any time.

The power consumption of the light-emitting diodes and all other components is extremely low. All components are designed so that they easily withstand the temperatures occurring in the head-up display. The system operates without any active cooling – another factor that boosts efficiency.

The windshield on which the image is projected acts like a concave mirror – it enlarges the image, with the typical distortion. Two convex corrector mirrors in the optical path made from plastic, with a special coating, compensate for this and increase the optical imaging performance.

To avoid double images, the windshield and its soundproofing safety film have a slightly tapered profile. They are manufactured with utmost precision; minute deviations from the ideal surface nevertheless cannot be avoided entirely. Audi has therefore installed an optical measuring system at the end of the production line on which the A7 Sportback and the new A6 are built. It analyzes the deviations to a thousandth of a millimeter and recalibrates the mirrors in the head-up display accordingly.

The next-generation head-up display

Audi is already planning the next development in head-up display technology – the "high-fidelity head-up display". This makes it possible to seemingly position the displays in the real environment. A navigation arrow, for instance, is no longer perceived as being at a fixed distance over the front lid; it is now directly at the junction that it is indicating. The arrow increases in size as the car approaches the junction. It remains over the junction, appearing to come nearer to the driver.

The new technology, which has already reached prototype stage at Audi, brings many tangible advantages. The display always lies ideally in the field of view and the eyes can always remain focused on long-range objects. The driver registers information even quicker and is distracted less.

Considerable technical work has gone into the high-fidelity head-up display. An on-board camera scans the surroundings in front of the vehicle. Ultra-high-performance software compares the images with the predictive route data in the navigation system and converts them into a matrix in which it embeds the displays. This technology is currently still at the prototype stage, but Audi expects it to reach maturity in a few years' time.

Audi and Nvidia

Audi and Nvidia first joined forces in 2005 – and within a matter of years Audi was the world's leading brand for automotive infotainment thanks to this partnership. The A4 that appeared in 2007 already featured a graphics chip from the Californian manufacturer; just over two years later, the A8 with Nvidia technology opened up a new dimension of visual representation.

Next year, Audi will become the first car manufacturer to use Nvidia's Tegra processor. Unveiled at the CES 2010 initially for the consumer electronics sector, the chip from the Santa Clara manufacturer is now the world's most advanced mobile processor. Conceived as a multi-core processor, it generates extremely high-resolution graphics with breathtaking speed. And it accelerates the reproduction of many audio and video formats such as mp3 audio and mpeg4 video that dominate the modern mobile entertainment world. Yet the Tegra chip consumes significantly less energy than previous multimedia processors – so it blends in perfectly with Audi's philosophy of efficiency.

The Tegra chip equips Audi's MMI systems for the future. Thanks to its high computing power, it can represent models of entire cities in three-dimensional renderings – the driver sees the road along which they are currently driving in a photographically realistic representation. This makes it even easier for them to find their way round.

The Tegra chip is also the perfect partner for the electric drive systems of the future – it makes it possible to display an electric car's operating radius in the navigation map, for instance.Audi will be providing a foretaste of the new technology at the CES electronics show.

The modular infotainment platform

Progress in the world of communication electronics presents a major challenge to all automotive manufacturers, because it is taking place much faster than their own product cycles. Cars take several years to develop, but infotainment solutions just a few months, yet their complexity is growing at a remarkable pace.

Audi's solution to this problem is the modular infotainment platform, which is being launched next year. From a technical viewpoint its centerpiece is a modular central computer powered by the MMX board (MMX: Multi-Media eXtension). This is a compact, high-performance computer module in the MMI system's central computer, at the core of which is the latest Tegra chip from Nvidia. The innovative modular approach makes it easier to update the MMI system's hardware at much shorter intervals. By exchanging the MMX module, the MMI system is always kept up to date.

e.solutions GmbH

Development of the hardware and software for automotive infotainment has up to now progressed at the same pace. This approach has now become too cumbersome in view of the excessive divide between short-lived, highly innovative infotainment software and hardware components that are meant to remain in use over the entire product cycle of the vehicle. The two spheres are increasingly moving apart. Whereas car manufacturers' systems suppliers previously used to supply all components from a single source, they are now increasingly turning to highly specialized software houses for software expertise.

Audi has already responded to this development in establishing e.solutions GmbH in mid-2009. This is a joint venture between Audi Electronics Venture GmbH, a fully owned subsidiary of AUDI AG, and Elektrobit Automotive GmbH, a division of the Finnish IT company Elektrobit.

The brand with the four rings brings its profound knowledge of automotive infotainment into the joint venture, and Elektrobit its expertise as a software house with operations worldwide in the domain of infotainment and systems integration. e.solutions GmbH combines the dynamism of a start-up with the broad-based expertise and strong economic basis of AUDI AG.

At the new company's facilities, located partly just outside the Ingolstadt plant and partly in Erlangen, over 100 Audi and Elektrobit software developers with project expertise create new, modular-structure infotainment solutions. e.solutions GmbH buys in functional software on the world market for such aspects as navigation and telephony, and integrates it into the e.solutions software suite. This has a seamless user interface that can be exchanged according to a modular principle, in line with the requirements of the VW Group brands. This software solution runs on the latest Tegra chip from Nvidia.

The start-up company's activities are focused initially on software applications in AUDI AG vehicles. They will ultimately benefit the entire Volkswagen Group. The software suite, which is also designed to run on other hardware platforms, could develop into an attractive proposition for the entire automotive industry.

Car-2-X technology

Audi approaches connecting cars with their environment as a holistic project. It encompasses not just contact with external data servers, but also exchanges with other vehicles and the transport infrastructure – the technical sector of Car-2-X communication.

In contrast to today's telematics systems, Car-2-X communication no longer requires a central service provider to pool and process information. The participants themselves perform these tasks by spontaneously networking with one another. Once all new cars are equipped with this technology, a functional network of automotive transmitters will soon be available.

One initial product of the development work is the travolution project that Audi launched in its home city of Ingolstadt in 2006. The vehicles in the test fleet communicate by WLAN and UMTS with the traffic signals on many of the city's major streets. These signals tell the vehicles when they will be changing and what the optimal speed is between each set of traffic signals.

This form of integration makes traffic flow much better. As the project stands now, the Audi experts expect CO2 emissions at traffic signals to decrease by roughly 15 percent. This corresponds to an overall saving of approximately 900 million liters (237,755,000 US gallons) of fuel per year if the new technology were to be deployed throughout Germany. Over and above this progress, the travolution project includes two additional convenience services – online payment at filling stations and parking garages.

As a complement to travolution, Audi is also involved in the nationwide simTD project (Safe and Intelligent Mobility Test Bed Germany). Five other German carmakers, two major suppliers, Deutsche Telekom and a number of scientific and public institutions have been collaborating on this large-scale test, which is supported by three federal ministries, since 2008.

The project, being carried out in the Frankfurt region, comprises five subsidiary areas and Audi has assumed responsibility for one of these. Throughout the urban area, 20 sets of traffic signals and 400 vehicles are converted with the same technology as in Ingolstadt. Audi's specialists are also looking into the area of traffic information with road preview and extended navigation. Audi is furthermore involved in the field of driving and safety, where it is working on the intersection assistant. This involves cars exchanging their data, so that they can alert each other if there is a threat of collisions.

Car-2-X communication harbors significant potential for enhancing safety and reducing fuel consumption. The participating vehicles can alert each other to congestion, breakdowns and weather events such as packed snow. Findings relating to the traffic flow can promote an energy-efficient driving style. Such a change in behavior will be especially important now that electric drive is set to become increasingly widespread. Another benefit of Car-2-X is that the driver can be guided straight to a vacant parking space.

Autonomous driving could be one future outcome of this new level of connectivity. Many Audi models are already capable of largely recognizing their environment thanks to their sensors. With future Car-2-X modules and additional cameras, the vehicle will then be able to drive itself whenever the driver wants it to do so, for instance in congestion or in stop-and-go traffic. Audi regards this scenario not as dictating to the driver, but as an offer – the driver is of course at liberty to resume control at any time.

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