A crucial aspect for the future networking of cars will be the mobile radio network – the future LTE standard, which was designed to exchange large amounts of data and will open up entirely new possibilities in this field. Audi is already developing an array of new Audi connect technologies today.
The LTE mobile radio standard
In most countries, mobile data is exchanged over existing UMTS networks. Depending on the expansion stage, the third generation (3G) of this mobile radio standard can currently enable a transfer rate of up to 28.8 MBit per second.
For the near future, Audi is relying on the fourth generation, or 4G, standard that is referred to as LTE (Long Term Evolution). The new network is being set up, and it enables data rates of 150 MBit/s and considerably faster response times. In the USA, large coverage areas are already offered by a network that goes by the name 4G – however, it is actually an HSPA+ (High Speed Packet Access). Commercial LTE networks are already available in several European countries and in the USA.
LTE technology enables the exchange of large files, such as music and movies, in HD quality. This is especially appealing to front and rear passengers. They can connect to the WLAN hotspot in the car via their mobile end devices and run different applications simultaneously; one passenger might participate in a video conference, for example, while another watches a YouTube video. Contacts between the vehicle and a service garage will also run via LTE in the future – the fast mobile radio network can be used to transmit software updates directly to the car.
In Germany, LTE is already available in some cities and in many rural areas as well. Driving trials that Audi recently completed together with Deutsche Telekom AG have confirmed that the LTE connection is stable over the entire Cologne metropolitan area. Audi is striving to be the first automotive service provider to implement the new standard in cars.
Data in the cloud
Today, Audi customers can already retrieve external data in the car via such features as Audi online traffic information, navigation with Google Earth and Street View services or POI search. In the future, however, it will be the fast LTE mobile radio network that will make a crucial difference and advance the technology to the level of “Data in the cloud” – the use of data located on servers on the Internet.
In the mid-term future, Audi is also working on integrating the online network services Twitter and Facebook into its cars – in a way that permits comfortable use for drivers. Incoming messages are read aloud; pre-set text building blocks are used to create messages. Ticker news, also known as RSS feeds, can also be played through the text-to-speech function. In addition, Audi is planning a City Events function that will provide useful information about the area where the car is currently located or a destination as well as flight information.
Apps for the smartphone
Apps for the smartphone are an important area of future interest . Most apps that can be purchased on the market are not suitable for use by a car driver. Therefore, Audi has developed its own customized applications that customers can use to individualize their cars.
For example, Audi apps make it possible to control and configure the car remotely. This will be of special interest in the electrically powered e-tron models; drivers will be able to check on the battery’s charge state from their living rooms and then plan the charging stations for their journeys.
A key aspect of Audi connect is the networking of the car with other vehicles and the transportation infrastructure. Car-to-X communication opens up many new opportunities for making driving safer, more relaxed and more economical.
Cars that are networked with each other could for example inform one another of emergency vehicles on the road, or warn one another of slippery streets or communicate at intersections. If they are networked with traffic lights, they can anticipate green lights optimally for continuous driving.
Observations of the traffic flow can promote an energy-efficient driving style – which is especially important for electric mobility. Another scenario is wireless payment of bills and fees at refueling stations or at a parking garage or lot.
There are two different scenarios for the establishment of Car-to-X technology, which Audi is helping to promote. In the one scenario, the LTE mobile radio network plays a key role – it routes data centrally to the servers of service providers who then send the data out, individually prepared, to individual vehicles. The other scenario relies on decentralized communication via automotive WLAN – the cars send data spontaneously and autonomously from one vehicle to another in a chain, which represents a new form of swarm intelligence.
The new standard was specially designed for mobile applications. Automotive WLAN, which operates at a frequency of 5.9 GHz, has a range of about two kilometers and is even suitable for very high driving speeds. In the European catalog of communication standards, it is listed as standard ITS-G5, where the acronym ITS stands for “intelligent transportation systems.” In the automobile, a special antenna is needed in addition to a receiver module in the roof area.
Specific Audi development projects in the car-to-X technical field include the intersection assistant (see below) and what is known as street preview. Similar to Audi online traffic information, it informs the driver of how heavy traffic is on the selected route. In this project, however, data is transferred by automotive WLAN – where suitably equipped vehicles act as transmitters and mutually inform one another of traffic conditions.
Even with relatively few vehicles, this system is able to generate the very latest, exact representations of the traffic situation. Audi and other German carmakers want to introduce street preview based on WLAN as soon as possible; it should be launched within this decade.
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.