Comprehensively connected: the sensors in the new Audi
Audi takes a decisive step towards autonomous driving with the new A8. The basic condition that this car satisfies is its comprehensive, permanent sensing of its surroundings. The flagship accomplishes this with a new, complete set of sensors. The full set comprises
- twelve ultrasonic sensors on the front, sides and rear,
- four 360 degree cameras on the front, rear and exterior mirrors,
- one front camera on the top edge of the windscreen,
- four mid-range radars at the vehicle’s corners,
- one long-range radar on the front,
- one infrared camera (night vision assist) on the front,
- one laser scanner on the front.
There have previously been several control units, each evaluating the information they pick up for a defined function. Now for the first time, a central driver assistance controller (zFAS) permanently forms a comprehensive image of the surroundings from the sensor data – for a wide range of assistance functions. This is created by complementary sensor systems, plus redundant data fusion in the zFAS and the radar control unit. All assistance systems benefit from the central model of the surroundings – whether adaptive driving assistant, active suspension, park assistance function or traffic jam pilot. Traffic signs are combined with data from a digital map; crossing assist draws on the comprehensive field of activity, as does the emergency braking function, which has been optimized in quality and effect by the redundant design. The zFAS, around the size of a tablet computer, makes its debut in the new A8. It is a high-tech data center that integrates high-performance computers from NVIDIA (Tegra K1), ALTERA (Cyclon V), Infineon (Aurix) and the image processor EyeQ3 from Mobileye, the world leader for image processing algorithms in the automotive context.
World first in the top segment: the laser scanner
Audi presents a further world first in the guise of the laser scanner. Mounted in the front bumper, this component roughly the size of a fist emits light pulses on several vertical planes. A mirror distributes them fanned out over a field about 80 meters (262.5 ft) deep and through a beam range of 145 degrees. The wavelengths of the flashes are in the near infrared range, making them invisible and harmless to the human eye. They are reflected by the objects in front of the car and are returned to the laser scanner in far less than a microsecond. There, they are detected by photodiodes. The time this process takes is used to compile a detailed, deeply contoured image of the surroundings. Together with the long-range radar and the front camera, the laser scanner forms a trio of sensors, the various strengths of which complement each other. The laser detects all kinds of objects – including non-metallic ones – with precision and has a wide beam angle. When it comes to those criteria it beats radar, which has a range of up to 250 meters (820.2 ft), a greater height range and persistently delivers readings even in rain and fog.
Laser scanners and radar also work in the dark if the front camera comes up against its limits despite the bright headlights of the new A8. In good visibility conditions it produces high-resolution images of the vehicle’s near and mid-range surroundings. Thanks to the image database it is capable of classifying many individual objects, such as automobiles, trucks, cyclists and pedestrians. Deep learning methods are used for the first time by the image processing system. It uses neural networks as part of its self-learning approach when determining which characteristics are appropriate and relevant for identifying the various objects. This satisfies another key condition for progress towards autonomous driving.
Thanks to the highly connected sensor technology, the assistance systems in the new A8 also respond even sooner to objects, for instance when they detect the end of a tailback and initiate a brake application – an advance on the previous model. Even the navigation profits from sensor data fusion and enables the sedan to identify its position with absolute precision in many situations.
From freeway to parking lot: the driver assistance systems
With 41 driver assistance systems, the fourth generation of the A8 becomes the new gold standard. The systems support the driver as desired, whether on the freeway or in the parking lot. They make driving even more convenient, effortless and safe. Audi groups the assistance systems in the three packages Park, City and Tour, with the Tour package standard in Germany. Customers who opt for the Audi AI assist package plus obtain all three packages and also the Audi AI remote garage pilot.
The Audi AI Park assist package comprises the Audi AI parking pilot and the wide-angle 360 degree cameras that make maneuvering safer. The driver can have various views of the car’s immediate surroundings displayed on the on-board monitor, to some extent with superimposed guide lines. Maneuvering assist provides steering movements and independently applies the brakes to avert the risk of bumping into static and moving objects. To protect the alloy wheels, the Park package also includes a curb warning.
The newly developed crossing assist is part of the City assist package. If the mid-range radars detect critical crossing traffic in front of the car, the system warns the driver and makes a brake application if need be. The new A8 also alerts the driver to risks when changing lanes. The exit warning system indicates vehicles or cyclists approaching from the rear when opening the door. Light guides in the doors indicate the danger optically. Cross traffic assist kicks in if the new A8 is reversing out of a right-angle parking space.
Another feature of the City package is the pre sense 360° safety system. It detects collision hazards all around the car and initiates targeted preventive measures – whether a full brake application, adjusting the seats or tightening the belts. The Audi AI active suspension additionally raises the body in the event of a side-on collision, deliberately directing the external forces towards crash-active structures. This new function is called Audi pre sense side and is part of the pre sense 360˚ system. It, too, uses the sensors integrated into the central driver assistance controller (zFAS), including the mid-range radars at the corners of the vehicle with a measuring range of about 75 meters (246.1 ft).
The central system in the Tour assist package is the adaptive driving assistant (ADA). It is a progression from the adaptive cruise control (ACC) of the previous model and also integrates a lane assist function and traffic jam assist. This means the driver has support for longitudinal and lateral control over the entire speed range from 0 to 250 km/h (155.3 mph). Bottle neck assist guides the new A8 through construction sites and similar zones. The system in addition promotes an efficient driving style by incorporating navigation data and car-to-X content such as traffic sign information. The A8 is the only model in its competitive field to accelerate or slow down in response to speed limits, bends, junctions and roundabouts without the need for driver intervention, while automatically drawing on route information from the navigation system. To complement the predictive advice in the Audi virtual cockpit, the driving pedal in the new A8 emits pulses.
The Audi pre sense front safety system, also part of the Tour package, can prevent rear-end collisions or reduce their severity. It incorporates a warning and braking function for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. The system is active over the car’s entire speed range up to 250 km/h (155.3 mph).
The Tour package also includes turn assist and collision avoidance assist. Turn assist monitors the lane of oncoming traffic when turning across it, thus helping to avoid a collision with an oncoming vehicle. It also monitors oncoming vehicles turning across the lane of the A8. It is the only model in its field of competitors to feature collision avoidance assist that also offers individual wheel braking as well as steering assistance, for more precise avoidance of obstructions. Camera-based traffic sign recognition and emergency assist, which brings the automobile to a standstill if the driver is no longer able to do so, complete the range.
Park assist and night vision assist are available as standalone options. The latter uses an infrared camera to detect pedestrians and larger wild animals at long distances in the dark and warns the driver of their presence.
Top technology: the MMI navigation plus
The new A8 adopts a novel approach to infotainment, too. At the top of the lineup is MMI navigation plus, which uses the latest-generation modular infotainment platform. This platform, referred to as the MIB 2+, is state of the art in every respect – computing power, energy efficiency, main memory and graphics. Its core component is a K1 unit by Audi venture partner NVIDIA which combines a quad-core main processor with a 192-core graphics processor. It operates about 50 times faster than the first-generation MIB.
MMI navigation plus provides access to the connect services as standard, and is equipped with a phone module. As an option the system can be expanded with the connect data transmission module including Wi-Fi hotspot. This introduces the LTE Advanced standard into the automotive sphere – another world first from Audi. It enables transmission rates of up to 300 MBit/s for downloads and up to 50 MBit/s for uploads, about three times what is currently possible. In addition, mobile phone calls can be conducted with the Audi phone box using the VoLTE (Voice over LTE) procedure. This accelerates phone connections and allows the simultaneous use of high-speed data transmission and high-resolution online voice telephony (HD Voice) where the other person’s voice sounds as if they are having a face-to-face conversation with you.
Car-to-X: traffic sign information and hazard information
The new A8 becomes part of the cloud with the Audi connect navigation & infotainment services – this is illustrated especially vividly by the car-to-X services traffic sign and hazard information. The new sedan and other current Audi models report speed limits that they have detected with their on-board camera to a server in the cloud. The server processes this information and sends it to other Audi drivers who might benefit from it. The same applies to the hazard information service: Cars warn one another about accidents, broken-down vehicles, slippery road surfaces or impaired visibility. The system does this by analyzing multiple parameters, such as the in-car electronics, data from the rain and light sensors, the headlights and the operating mode of the windshield wipers. The information basis for the new car-to-X services is maps supplied by HERE, a data platform that Audi is continuously updating and expanding in partnership with the BMW Group and Daimler AG. It surveys the world of traffic with centimeter precision and can detect and evaluate events in real time.
An array of other services: Audi connect
As well as the car-to-X services, Audi connect includes an array of other services such as access to Twitter and the e-mail mailbox or Google Earth navigation. The new hybrid radio service switches seamlessly between VHF, DAB and online stations to find the best reception. It recognizes the current music track and loads context information from the cloud. Online radio provides access to thousands of internet radio stations and podcasts available worldwide. In many markets, the data transfer for the Audi connect services is handled by the Audi connect SIM, which is built into the car. The corresponding data flat rate covers the charges and permits roaming in many European countries. To use the Wi-Fi hotspot in the A8 as well as the new internet radio services, the customer also has the option of taking out attractive data packages. There is a separate area in Audi connect for the package Audi connect safety & service including vehicle scheduling. It covers the emergency call, online roadside assistance and Audi service request functions, as well as the remote services that can be controlled by app.
Central access point: the new myAudi app
All Audi connect functions are brought together in the new myAudi app. With its improved ease of use and functionality, it enables the customer to access all Audi content. The array of smartphone-based services includes for instance transferring points of interest to the navigation, music streaming via Napster or copying the smartphone calendar to the MMI. The app can also be used to lock and unlock the doors, operate the optional auxiliary heating and call up the status report. The customer can also call up the latter in the myAudi portal. In the event of theft, the Audi call center locates the A8 by remote access and disables the car if required. In addition, the car can attract attention by activating the horn and flashers, to help the police find it.
Groundbreaking: navigation with lots of new features
The navigation likewise offers an array of new features – both optical and functional. The map has a new texture and incorporates highly detailed models of major European cities for an even more realistic representation. For route planning, the sedan with the self-learning navigation system gives its owner suggestions based on routes previously driven. It also draws on the system’s experience of driving times and traffic loads. The calculation is performed online on the HERE servers, which incorporate real-time data on the overall traffic situation. The extended point-of-interest view enables the driver to call up special locations straight from the navigation, such as filling stations and parking garages. They can also call up dynamic supplementary information such as current fuel prices, parking space availability or opening hours. Together with MMI navigation plus, they receive four free map updates per year.
The myAudi app provides another new function called myAudi Navigation. This enables the driver to plan a route seamlessly across multiple devices, which is especially helpful in unfamiliar cities. To give an example: The app guides the customer from a restaurant to their car, which is parked a few streets away, then switches from the smartphone to the on-board monitor. When the customer gets out of their A8 at the end of their journey, it accompanies them again on their smartphone to their next destination.
Digital access to the car: the Audi connect key
The Audi connect key offers a new way of accessing the car: A compatible android smartphone serves as an alternative to the familiar remote control key and also takes care of starting the engine once the car has been unlocked. The access data it requires is stored in a secure element on the SIM card or in the smartphone. When the driver holds their smartphone in front of the door handle, the data is transmitted to the car by near field communication (NFC).
The Audi connect key is as convenient as it is secure. The user of the new A8 can issue the access data to four additional persons, for instance colleagues or family members. The key is operational at all times, even if the smartphone’s battery is flat (depending on model). For the concierge service or e.g. workshop appointments, there is an NFC-enabled key card the size of a credit card that allows the service provider to drive the car even if they are not in possession of the smartphone. Audi hosts the data on Group-owned, secure servers in the cloud. The latest crypto standards such as 256-bit encryption are used.
400 custom functions: personalization
The five possible drivers of the new A8 can save their preferred settings under up to seven user profiles. The scope for personalization covers up to 400 parameters, from the driver seat position and the preferred air conditioning settings to navigation destinations previously used and favorite media. The display views and the bulk of the assistance systems are also covered by personalization.
The sedan identifies the individual user from the signal in the remote control key or Audi connect key as soon as the automobile is unlocked. It welcomes them by name to the Audi virtual cockpit and activates their profile. The driver can create several different personal profiles – such as a weekday and a weekend profile, or a freeway and a country road profile. They can switch between them while on the move.
Virtual click: the MMI touch response operating system
A coherent operating concept is hugely important, given the wide range of settings and options in the luxury sedan. The previous A8 models already featured the impressive MMI and MMI touch systems. The new model generation presents the next generation – MMI touch response.
The operating concept revolves around a display with black-panel look. Its screen diagonal is 10.1 inches, the same as a tablet computer. With a resolution of 1,540 x 720 pixels, the gently curved TFT screen provides very sharp images and high contrast, even when viewed from an angle.
The MMI touch response concept makes the touchscreen technology very reliable to operate thanks to a novel combination of tactile and acoustic feedback. When the driver touches the display glass with a finger, they do not activate a function straight away – they need to press gently with a defined pressure. By way of acknowledgment, they feel a gentle pulse generated by an electromagnet moving the display glass minimally sideways. At the same time a small loudspeaker emits a click sound. The touchscreen display thus gives the driver clear feedback: It feels authentic and now transfers the quality legacy of physical buttons and switches to purely digital instruments.
The large display is used for controlling navigation, media and vehicle functions. The driver can click, swipe, zoom and scroll on it. The menu structure is intuitive and flat, like on a modern smartphone. The arrangement of the tiles in the main menu and the direct access bar can be configured individually. There is a second display with a screen diagonal of 8.6 inches and a resolution of 1,280 x 660 pixels on the center tunnel console. The driver uses this to control the air conditioning and the comfort features. They can also store favorites for their preferred functions, such as navigation destinations, radio stations, phone numbers or vehicle functions. They can rest their wrist comfortably on the tiptronic selector lever while operating it.
The lower display also offers the driver the option of entering text – either via a keyboard or by handwriting recognition. The latter signals a quantum leap. Thanks to whole-word recognition of handwriting or on-the-spot writing plus acoustic feedback, the driver can enter navigation destinations or search terms particularly quickly and accurately without needing to look at the display.
In the new, connected menu structure all Audi connect content is located directly under the corresponding function menus. That keeps searches simple and quick. When looking for a Chinese restaurant, for instance, a hit list appears as soon as just three letters have been input. It also gives Yelp rankings and can be sorted by various criteria. The fuel prices are given for filling stations. Alternatively there is the option of a Google search.
The surface of both displays has a kind of anti-fingerprint coating. Fingerprints can now simply be wiped off. There is also an anti-glare layer that refracts the reflected light. This makes reflections fuzzy, reducing their interference. The outermost layer is tempered, similar to the Gorilla glass used on various smartphones. It is very strong and extremely scratch-resistant.
High hit rate: keyword search with hybrid concept
The new A8 answers its driver’s questions in two ways. First, it uses its own information on the user’s preferences that the vehicle has remembered; and second, it draws on knowledge in the cloud. This seamless connect experience also applies to voice control. It enables the A8 to engage in intelligent conversation. The driver can phrase their instructions however they choose – the data package for these is run through recognition software. The self-learning dialog manager responds, asks queries if need be or offers selection options. If the network signal is good, the answer takes less than two seconds to arrive. In dialog with the system, the driver can switch between the menu areas, for example call a contact from the phone book and use the associated address as a navigation destination. Over and above performing destination searches, the new hybrid voice control also covers the media, the air conditioning and certain telephony functions, plus some Audi connect services. It functions across borders in Europe.
Full HD: the Audi virtual cockpit
As well as the MMI touch response displays and hybrid voice control, the new A8 has a third control level, the multifunction steering wheel. The driver uses it to call up all driving and vehicle information; they can also activate the primary infotainment functions. The information is routinely displayed in the Audi virtual cockpit. Its 12.3-inch TFT monitor, which is fed by a separate K1 computer unit by NVIDIA, provides a brilliant full HD resolution of 1,920 x 720 pixels. The driver can choose between two interfaces, both of them with a modern look. In the classic view, the virtual instruments are similar in size to analog displays. Between them is a window in which the navigation map or telephone, radio and audio lists are displayed. In Infotainment mode, this window is maximized and the speedometer and rev counter are correspondingly reduced in size.
Floating image: the head-up display
The optional head-up display projects information relevant to the driver as symbols and numbers that can be quickly perceived within the driver’s direct field of view, including speed, navigation messages and information from certain assistance systems. A TFT screen and two aspherical mirrors project it onto the windscreen in a field measuring 217 x 84 millimeters (8.5 x 3.3 in). It appears to hover in a window about 2.3 meters (7.5 ft) in front of the driver. Because the eyes are focused for distance vision, they can register its content especially fast, minimizing any driver distraction.
The equipment, data and prices specified in this document refer to the model range offered in Germany. Subject to change without notice; errors and omissions excepted.