As a technology demonstrator, the Audi Roadjet Concept embodies the proverbial "Vorsprung durch Technik" not merely in its drivetrain. It comes complete with a raft of other systems that will be finding their way into series production in a few years' time, thus paving the way for driving fun, safety and comfort.
Audi drive select
Only a minority of car owners can afford the luxury of having three cars parked in front of their house to give them maximum flexibility in choosing the right car for every occasion, depending on whether comfort, manoeuvrability or dynamic behaviour is what they require. The Audi Roadjet Concept fulfils all these requirements in a single car. Because Audi drive select allows the driver to preselect three highly distinctive configurations for the engine, transmission characteristic, steering and shock absorbers. The result is a car that can be enjoyed in three utterly different ways.
The basic setting is the "dynamic" mode; it is activated automatically at the start of every journey, and its overall concept reflects the expectations that Audi drivers typically have of what their car should feel like to drive in terms of both dynamism and comfort. The driver is informed which mode is currently active via the centre display in the instrument cluster.
If the driver selects the "comfort" mode by pressing the button on the control in the steering wheel, the shock absorbers adopt noticeably softer settings in order to filter out bumpiness in the road surface even more effectively. The Servotronic requires lower steering forces, and dynamic steering establishes a more indirect spectrum of ratios. The engine and transmission respond gently to use of the accelerator. This setting is perfect for relaxed driving over long distances, above all on straight roads such as motorways.
The "sport" mode, on the other hand, lends the Audi Roadjet Concept a decidedly sporty driving feel. The shock absorbers now adopt a firm response and the steering ratio is direct. The engine responds more spontaneously to the throttle and the transmission's shift points move higher up the engine speed range: the ideal basis for active driving pleasure on winding roads.
Over and above the three basic configurations, Audi drive select provides scope for varying individual parameters between the levels dynamic, sport and comfort. It is for instance entirely possible to combine sporty shock absorber settings with a relaxed, easy-action steering response.
The electronics developers have focused on safety and traffic control in the Audi Roadjet Concept, as well as on driving pleasure. It features a prototype of a future generation of information-processing systems that herald in a new era in road traffic networking specifically in countries with high volumes of traffic.
At the heart of this concept is car-to-car communication, meaning the direct exchange of information within the flow of traffic. Unlike the telematics systems of the recent past, no central service is now needed to consolidate and process the information swiftly and effectively.
The progress that has been achieved in the areas of computing power and software development have made this application possible; even though they occupy very little space and consume very little energy, future systems will be capable of processing an array of data into practical, easily digested information for the driver that moreover paves the way for a very high standard of safety.
The reality of road traffic means that the car-to-car network can of course only be activated with a certain lead time. This hurdle is, however, manageable because virtually all vehicle manufacturers in Europe, the USA and Japan have agreed in parallel to develop a common standard for the hardware and software.
Applications have also been submitted to the authorities to use standard radio frequencies on an international scale, thus assuring the system's proper functioning when driving abroad.
Once all new vehicles in a market are being factory-fitted with this new technology, a functioning network of car-based transmitters will be created within a few months, at least in conurbations.
Many new areas of application can then be exploited in practice. The following three examples are intended merely as illustrations of what scope car-to-car communication offers:
Example 1 – safety. A vehicle has skidded on a slippery surface on a blind bend and is hanging half in a ditch, at right-angles to the flow of traffic. It is now unable to move unassisted. Other vehicles are swiftly approaching the obstruction but their drivers are unable to see it. With the new communication technology, the stranded vehicle will transmit a warning signal which – thanks to the network established with the vehicle's on-board navigation system – also indicates the location of the hazard. A corresponding warning simultaneously appears on the navigation screens of the approaching vehicles, indicating the location of the accident – the risk of a collision is thus substantially reduced.
Example 2 – traffic flow. Lines of vehicles are moving between sets of traffic lights on a multi-lane arterial road. The cars accelerate, only to have to brake again when the lights turn red. Such a driving style is not only fatiguing for the individual driver, but also means that thousands of litres of fuel are wasted along every kilometre of such roads in the long term, by the traffic as a whole; it furthermore significantly inflates exhaust emissions in conurbations.
Car-to-car technology means that the cars are not only able to establish a network with each other, but also pick up information from static transmitters such as the traffic lights' control systems.
The phases of each set of traffic lights can thus be transmitted, giving drivers an opportunity to anticipate more accurately how much acceleration is necessary or appropriate. The same applies to impending congestion: using data from cars further ahead, the systems can recommend what speeds drivers should adopt in order to keep the traffic flowing.
Example 3 – service. When driving through a city centre, a driver has selected the local shopping centre as the destination for the navigation system. There is a chronic shortage of parking spaces around that destination. Here too, the new technology is able to help: the mobile system uses the coordinates for the destination to link up with the parking spaces management system for the area around the destination. If a nearby vacant parking space is reported by static facilities, such as at a multi-storey car park, the navigation system can automatically take this into account and simultaneously reserve the space in that car park. The driver is guided to their destination by the shortest and most convenient route, instead of having to drive round in circles endlessly hunting for that elusive parking space.
The number of variations on these examples is almost limitless, illustrating the huge potential of the new technology in promoting safety, flexibility and efficiency as the volume of traffic on our roads increases.
The equipment and data stated here refer to the model range offered for sale in Germany. We reserve the right to make changes. Errors and omissions excepted.