The term ‘Audi connect’ covers all applications and developments that connect Audi models to the owner, the Internet, the transportation infrastructure and other vehicles. Ricky Hudi, Head of Electrics/Electronics Development at Audi, describes it like this: “A defining feature of the last decade was that we fully integrated all the functions in the vehicle. Over this decade, we will be seamlessly networking the vehicle with its environment.”
Audi took on this task earlier than other carmakers – back in 2005, it launched joint projects with Google and Nvidia to develop software and hardware, and in 2009 the first Internet services were available in the automobile. This strategy resulted in the brand’s technological lead in the field of infotainment, which many Audi models offer today, starting with the compact A1.
For many young customers, the automobile’s image is changing today: it has evolved from a status symbol to a “mobile device” – a technological object that lets its users always stay online and connected while on the move. The Audi brand has developed its new customized Audi connect services for this. These services are supplied to the MMI via a UMTS module. Furthermore, an integrated WLAN hotspot lets front and rear passengers conveniently surf and e-mail from their mobile end devices.
In just a few years, the new LTE mobile radio standard will make data exchange even faster in many countries. In anticipation of this transition, Audi is developing new solutions in car-to-X communication and in the “Data in the cloud” field. Future driver assistance systems can also benefit from the fast LTE network.
All of these diverse connectivity options only make sense in the car if the driver can operate them easily and intuitively over an ingeniously designed interface. Audi is working intensively on such operating and display concepts.
The Bluetooth online car phone and voice control
The Bluetooth online car phone is available in many models; it produces the connection to the internet via a UMTS module that is integrated in the MMI navigation plus system. Another feature of the system, the WLAN hotspot, lets front and rear passengers connect up to eight mobile devices – from iPhones to laptops – so that they can conveniently surf and e-mail as they please, encrypted with WPA2.
The Bluetooth online car phone is operated via MMI navigation plus, using the multifunction steering wheel or by voice control. The telephone function and data transfer take place via the roof antenna in order to ensure optimum reception conditions. If the car is driving in an area outside the UMTS network, the system switches to the EDGE standard. All the driver needs to do to go online is insert a data-capable SIM card in the card reader. As an alternative, the driver can connect a cell phone to the system via Bluetooth, provided that it is equipped with the necessary SIM Access Profile.
Today, Audi is already the leading brand in ergonomics, and neutral tests have repeatedly confirmed this. It is also a leader in voice control, which can be delivered in many vehicle models. Key functions of the audio system, navigation and telephone – including address book – can be operated by voice control. If a Bluetooth online car phone is installed, voice control can also be used to operate the Google POI search.
Especially here, and in navigation, the Audi system proves to be a very strong performer: the driver can input his or her entire destination – city, street and house number – in a very natural way by speaking it in a single sentence. It is also still possible to call up the names of radio stations, media titles and contacts.
As an alternative to voice control, a second user control level is available in most Audi models in the form of a large rotary pushbutton. In the top model series, Audi also offers the innovative touchpad, MMI touch, which operates with handwriting recognition.
The driver writes letters or numbers on the touch-sensitive screen with a finger and the system provides acoustic feedback after each character is entered. A particularly useful innovation is MMI touch for Asian languages, as this can recognize and process several thousand characters.
Audi connect services of today
The Bluetooth online car phone offers the customer many customized Audi connect services. In this way, messages, trip and weather information and POIs from Google can be experienced in the vehicle. Drivers can plan their routes in advance on their home computers using myAudi, upload them to a special section of the www.audi.com website and download them from there to the car when setting out on the trip. If desired, the driver can view the map with background aerial and satellite images from Google Earth.
An especially attractive service is Audi online traffic information. This service displays current traffic flow data on the navigation map. If the route chosen by the driver has free-flowing traffic, it is shown in green; yellow indicates dense or slow-moving traffic, and red signifies a traffic jam. In this case, Audi online traffic information identifies the traffic problem in a text and suggests an alternative route that does not lead right to another traffic jam.
The Audi system is faster, more precise and more intelligent than conventional TMC and TMC pro solutions, and it also covers cities and country roads. The primary source of data for the database is from hundreds of thousands of smartphones and navigation devices that are carried in vehicles and report their current positions at short time intervals to service providers over the cell phone network. A detailed picture of the traffic load situation is derived from the data provided. Audi online traffic information has been launched in Central Europe, France, the UK and Italy; additional countries will follow in quick succession.
Another new Audi connect service is the POI search, which can be operated by voice control. The driver only needs to select a destination and name the desired category – such as the name of a restaurant or a term such as “flowers,” and he is then provided with a list of florists in the area. The voice command, or “voice tag,” is converted to a small data packet that is sent to the Google search engine.
The responses that appear on the onboard monitor often include the telephone number of the restaurant and additional information. Just a click of the mouse is all that is needed to book a table or order a bouquet of flowers.
Another pioneering Audi connect function is Google Street View. It shows the selected destination in advance, as it looks from the car, which makes it much easier for drivers to get their bearings.
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.