In our digital age, cars are now part of a virtual ecosystem. They have been transformed into mobile devices whose various features offer drivers corresponding advantages around ease of operation, convenience and safety. Thanks to an LTE module, Audi is connecting its models to the World Wide Web as well as integrating smartphones into the on-board infotainment system. On top of that, the cars are equipped with complex high-tech components such as cameras, scanners and sensors. The resulting network facilitates communication between the vehicle, driver and the environment. What’s more, contemporary mobility is defined by swarm intelligence—a car-to-car communications network based on a cloud solution.
“Technological developments are advancing at a rapid pace. At this point, it’s not just the car that matters: Smartphones and other mobile devices also play a role. Operability and applicability from this field feed into the development of new infotainment systems—after all, these shape the way such services are habitually used and which functions come to be expected as a kind of standard,” explains Johannes Leboterf, Technical Project Manager for the MIB2+ at AUDI AG.
In Audi models, communication with the outside world and its services is bundled under Audi connect. And the new Audi Q8, which comes with the MMI Navigation plus infotainment system as standard on the German market, is no different. The infotainment system incorporates the Audi connect data transfer module, including LTE Advanced and a Wi-Fi hotspot. Based on previous routes traveled, the navigation system is able to identify drivers’ preferences and make suggestions in keeping with them. What’s more, Audi connect’s online services round out navigation with predictive capabilities. For instance, if desired, car-to-x services, such as traffic sign and hazard information*, make use of the Audi fleet’s swarm intelligence accumulated by those vehicles in the Audi fleet with the relevant technology. When cars communicate with one another, they create a kind of digital early warning system, with the result that every journey is safer, more pleasant and efficient.
Philipp Kretschmer, Project Manager for MIB2+, puts it this way: “While in previous models the on-board and online worlds were divided, they dovetail with each other in the current vehicle generations, including the Audi Q8. Since the services no longer have separate origins, accessing them is easier.”
By creating a personalized user profile in the MMI Navigation plus, those who take the wheel of the new Audi Q8 can set as many as 400 preferences for a number of different drivers. With the myAudi app, drivers can also transfer special destinations to the navigation system, stream music or import their smartphone calendar into the MMI.
The MMI touch response operating concept in the new Audi Q8 allows virtually all functions to be accessed via two large displays. The upper display with a diagonal of 10.1 inches is used to operate the infotainment and navigation systems. Below it, an 8.6-inch display lets the driver regulate cabin temperature along with other comfort functions, as well as enter text. The monitors form part of the fully digital Audi virtual cockpit, which comprises a 12.3 inch, high-resolution display. Using the multifunction steering wheel, drivers can toggle between two monitor layouts. On top of that, the head-up display projects important information—including detailed maps of intersections for navigation purposes—onto the windshield.
Audi connect not only brings the brand’s online services into the car but also gives it access to external ones. Depending on the selected model, the multifaceted offerings span the arc from navigation using Google EarthTM and Google Street ViewTM 1, 2 through online traffic updates and searching for parking spots all the way to Audi connect safety & service. For certain models, such as the new Audi Q8, fresh additions to the portfolio include car-to-x services for harnessing the swarm intelligence generated by those members of the Audi fleet that are compatible with this service.
Digitalization is also changing the way vehicle accessories—for instance, the car key—are used. The optional Audi connect key allows owners of the new Audi Q8 to use near field communication (NFC) on a compatible Android smartphone to lock and unlock the car and start the engine.
Within system limits, traffic sign recognition is able to identify temporarily imposed speed limits—such as around roadworks—and use the cellular network to send them to a cloud-based server, which also captures notifications from other drivers. The information is regarded as verified as soon as enough other cars submit the same alert. It can then be passed on to other Audi motorists whose vehicles are linked to the cloud or be used by relevant driver assistance systems, fitted either as standard or optional equipment. A similar system governs hazard information: Cars communicating via a cloud, warn drivers about hazards corroborated by swarm intelligence, such as accident and breakdown sites, as well as slippery surfaces which may cause skidding. For an accident or breakdown to be reported, the eCall system must have made an emergency call or an airbag been deployed. Here, too, the system only notifies the cloud with a view to warning subsequent road users once information about a hazard has been validated.
Andreas Friedrich, Project Manager for Infotainment Services, offers insight into the process: “In the case of congestion reports, we rely on a service provider which we in turn supply with information from Audi cars. This is, of course, anonymous. In other words, no sensitive data is shared. It means that when multiple vehicles are traveling at 20 kilometers per hour on a specific section of highway, then there’s most probably a traffic jam. This information is transmitted to the provider who will pass it on accordingly. This way, subsequent vehicles that approach that stretch of road will benefit from the swarm intelligence.”
New functions in other fields, such as the increasingly relevant issue of finding parking in urban areas, are also under development. Called On Street Parking, this particular car-to-x service will be available soon in models with the appropriate technology, such as the new Audi Q8, and help drivers with the search. The system is able to autonomously recognize parking maneuvers and then relay these to the cloud. In a nutshell, it points to sections of parking that are presumably fully occupied. Here again, swarm intelligence is key: Other suitably equipped and consequently cloud-enabled vehicles can give motorists a better insight into parking availability at a specific site. Down the line, the next stage of development with its additional complement of sensors, including cameras and ultrasonic sensors, will help improve cars’ ability to pinpoint available parking spots. The system will then rely on statistical models to calculate the number of free parking spots at the side of the road, based on factors such as the time of day. Drivers can then view the likelihood of finding a parking spot in real time.
“You have to look at the big picture in this regard: These and other services form the basis for piloted driving. And consequently for progressing toward autonomous driving, too. Following this graduated pattern, we will be introducing more and more services of this kind in production models,” adds Stefan Hackner, Project Manager for Car-to-X Services.
Those services currently available in the new Audi Q8 already offer a sneak preview of what features will play a key role in shaping tomorrow’s mobility. In addition to alternative drive systems and innovative technologies, digitalization and networking will remain focal aspects, paving the way for cutting-edge connectivity and adding a new dimension to being on the move.
*With the exception of the emergency call feature, the Audi connect services in a car can be deactivated if desired. All legal notices as well as information about availability and technical requirements can be obtained from audi.com or your Audi partner.
Please note that the available myAudi services may vary depending on the country, vehicle and equipment in question.
1Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc.
2Audi connect services are only available in combination with the optional MMI Navigation plus with MMI touch response.
Further information on the official fuel consumption and specific CO2 emissions figures for new passenger cars can be found in the Guideline for Fuel Consumption, CO2 Emissions and Electric Power Consumption, which is available free of charge at all car dealerships as well as DAT Deutsche Automobil Treuhand GmbH, Hellmuth-Hirth-Str. 1, 73760 Ostfildern-Scharnhausen, Germany (www.dat.de).