Connectivity of the future
The brand with the four rings is hard at work on the Audi connect technologies of the future, which means even greater interconnectivity with other cars and the traffic infrastructure. Customers reap the benefits of greater safety and convenience. At the same time, the connect technologies are the foundation for greater efficiency, both with respect to fuel consumption and in terms of travel time and route guidance. To handle the rapidly expanding volume of data, Audi is investing in powerful wireless communications technologies with LTE Advanced and LTE-V.
The second generation of the modular infotainment platform (MIB) is used in many of the new production models from Audi. The next version, MIB2+, will enable new infotainment functions.
MIB2+ offers significantly more computing performance to support multiple high-resolution displays. It also merges onboard and online information, making the car more a part of the cloud than ever before. The integration of wireless communication into the car continues to play a decisive role here. With the MIB2+, this is based on the new LTE Advanced standard. On the one hand, this allows for improved convenience functions, such as faster transfer of online content or better call quality. It also is a prerequisite for the implementation of car-to-x services and, in the longer term, for the realization of swarm intelligence and automated driving.
The scalable concept of the modular infotainment platform (MIB) makes it possible to update the hardware at short intervals. It lets Audi react quickly and flexibly to the fast pace of innovation in consumer electronics and optimally exploit the potential of new generations of chips. The domain architecture that Audi uses in the MIB is a promising approach for the overall electrical/electronics architecture in the car. In the medium term, a few intelligently networked domain computers will replace the countless controllers to form a central computing unit.
With the MIB2+, Audi is the world’s first carmaker to support the latest standard, LTE Advanced (LTE = Long Term Evolution). With LTE Advanced, MIB2+ achieves maximum transmission rates of 300 MBit/s for download and 50 Mbit/s for upload, making it around three times faster than the previous MIB2. Upgrading of the cellular phone network has already begun in many countries.
Another strength of the MIB2+ is mobile telephony using VoLTE (Voice over LTE), in which data packets are transported via the IP protocol. This new technology improves voice quality, accelerates phone connections and enables simultaneous use of high-resolution, online voice telephony and high-speed data transmission. If network conditions are poor, the Audi wireless communications module can use multiple frequency blocks in the LTE Advanced network simultaneously (carrier aggregation) to establish a fast data connection.
The LTE standard – and in the future LTE Advanced – also plays an important role for Audi’s car-to-x services. In the medium term, it will be used to transfer most of the information being sent to the car via wireless networks, such as information about construction zones. This information flows into the new HERE HD Live Map, a digital map serving as the basis for the piloted driving of the future.
With car-to-x technology, there are strong market-specific preferences with respect to the base technology. The American market, for example, uses the 802.11 p standard, which has already been specified and which Audi has already successfully tested. In other markets such as China, the 5G standard will likely establish itself.
The “V” in LTE-V stands for vehicular, i.e. the specific applications in vehicles. The new LTE-V technology very quickly establishes direct connections between the data transfer modules in automobiles. This innovative ad-hoc communication enables cars to communicate with one another even in regions without wireless coverage.
The LTE-V module in the car has two operating modes: In Coverage mode is active when the car is located close enough to a base station. Here the network manages the communication between the users by allocating each defined resources with respect to time and frequency spectrum. A fire truck on a call, for example, sends its position reports with high priority. LTE-V management call also interconnect a group of vehicles in such a way that they form an intelligent local swarm. This enables the leading vehicle to warn those following about the end of a traffic jam, for instance.
The second mode is Out of Coverage. It serves as a fallback level for when cars are too far from a base station to synchronize with it. The station can supply coverage to an area several kilometers in diameter. Cars still exchange information in this mode, but without coordination by the base station.
The fast connection establishment predestines this new technology for the transfer of time-critical information. Besides warnings, this also includes such aspects as the future “platooning”: piloted cars driving in a close-headway formation on highways. The vehicles in the convoy can use LTE-V to continuously adjust the ideal gap between them so that they can drive very efficiently while also helping to prevent accidents.
Audi is working to establish the updated LTE standard in close collaboration with its partners, including the wireless technology company Huawei. Deutsche Telekom, which is making available the frequencies in the gigahertz spectrum, and the Chinese company have set up a test site on the A9 autobahn near Ingolstadt. This is a subproject of the “Digital Test Bed A9” trial sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. The objective is to test piloted and connected driving in real-world traffic. Audi is involved in multiple projects in this field.
Practical testing has already been completed. Four LTE-V base stations were installed along an 11 kilometer stretch of highway between the Lenting and Manching exits. The communications modules in the cars were provided by Huawei. In collaboration with BMW and Toyota, Audi used two test platforms to test how well cars from different manufacturers could share data among themselves – with a variety of requirements and under real-world conditions. The results are currently being analyzed.
The next step will be to standardize the LTE-V technology and protocols worldwide in order to gain as many users as possible. The new technology could reach market maturity before the end of this decade. Audi experts further expect that LTE-V will not only make its way to the car, but also to smartphones. That would open up additional, entirely new connectivity possibilities, such as car-to-pedestrian communication. This would allow information about the pedestrian’s location to be shared in real time.
Control and display concepts of tomorrow
Audi showed how the control concept of the future might look with the Audi e-tron quattro concept technology study. Now the brand with the four rings is evolving the Audi virtual cockpit into the Audi virtual dashboard. This comprises multiple OLED displays, each of which assumes different tasks. The fully digital control concept lays the foundation for a system that adapts to the use patterns of individual customers, providing intelligent hints to support them as a discrete assistant.
With its fully digital cockpit, the Audi e-tron quattro concept provides a glimpse of how the control and display concept might look in the future. In the new, starkly reduced Audi virtual dashboard, a total of three displays are responsible for the display and control of all functions and information. Positioned in the driver’s direct field of view is the curved OLED of the
Audi virtual cockpit with a 14.1-inch diagonal and 2240 x 720-pixel resolution. In the base menu, it displays the speed, charge status of the traction battery and range. The Audi virtual cockpit curved OLED is controlled intuitively using the multifunction steering wheel.
The slightly curved surface of the large central display ensures that the driver can always read the displays without glare. The free form of the contour is one of the strengths of the AMOLED technology used here (AMOLED = Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diodes). It uses extremely thin films.
Two touch displays are found in the center console. The upper screen shows classic infotainment content for controlling navigation and media functions, while the lower screen is used for text input and to operate the automatic air conditioning system. In addition, on the multifunctional display, individual favorites can be defined whose functions can later be called up quickly.
All key functions are integrated into these two displays. This makes it possible to personalize contents and update and extend functions at a later time. The fully digital Audi control concept lays the foundation for a system that adapts to the use patterns of individual customers. Its intelligent messages and personalized content make it a kind of personal assistant in the car.
New touchscreen technology
The new type of MMI operation with MMI touch response recognizes touch gestures and adapts them for the car. The system provides haptic feedback that can be clearly felt on the finger when the driver scrolls through lists or adjusts the air conditioning system, for example. Buttons are selected and actuated by a gentle press on the display. This avoids inadvertent operating errors.
Operation is simple and safe; the wrist rests comfortably on the wide gear selector lever. The MMI touch response system thus combines the advantages of a configurable display with the haptic feedback of conventional switches and dials.
Online voice control
Audi is also entering a new dimension in voice control, which is also known as the SDS (speech dialog system). MIB2+ expands the system to include a hybrid solution that incorporates and if need be compares both on-board and online solutions. Online and offline voice control thus augment one another seamlessly.
In online recognition, the driver’s speech input is sent as a data packet to voice recognition software in the cloud over the cellular phone network. If the on-board and the online recognition systems both provide a response, the dialog manager compares them. In choosing the more plausible response, it uses such criteria as the car’s location and previous user queries.
The new voice control system understands many expressions from everyday speech, thus extending the voice control spectrum. Along with point of interest (POI) searches, it includes additional functions such as weather, news and online radio.
Seamless connect experience
In the future, the entire control and display concept will learn about individual customers with their habits and preferences, and actively assist them. For instance, the navigation system might recommend before the trip begins that the driver start out early if traffic is beginning to build up, so that the desired destination can be reached on time. During the drive, the latest supplemental information – such as traffic and hazard messages – is displayed via the 3D map in the driver’s direct field of view. Information on the surroundings as well as the location of nearby charging stations for
Audi e-tron models can also be displayed. In the future, the HERE database will be supplying this information. Customers will also have a way of always keeping their cars up-to-date. They soon will be able to use their personal myAudi account to extend functionalities or acquire them after car purchase.
Personal intelligent assistant (PIA)
The best control concept is one that adjusts to driver, saving him or her as many actions as possible and automatically carries out routine commands. PIA, the personal intelligent assistant, adheres to this motto.
The concept of the PIA predevelopment project is to link data intelligently: data from the internet, driver data, data about the current and upcoming traffic situation as well as data from the car. PIA also reacts to voice input, and thanks to intelligent algorithms can interact with the user autonomously and adaptively.
Possible usage scenarios for PIA could be the following driver behavior patterns and activities: What navigation destination does the driver enter most frequently and on which days? What music and which Audi connect service does the driver choose at what time? How does the driver set the air conditioning and seat heating depending on the weather? How much distance does the driver leave between the vehicle ahead on the highway? What parking spot does the driver use at what time of day and in what type of weather? Does the driver prefer an underground garage when its raining? Whom does the driver call most often and at what time?
PIA continuously learns more about the preferences and habits of the user from this type of information. Audi uses machine learning technology here. PIA therefore is constantly developing and with the help of this artificial intelligence, gleans more detailed knowledge with every kilometer driven. PIA can adjust the functions of the car to the patterns of behavior and needs of the driver, and actively make recommendations. Heavy traffic on a rainy Friday afternoon might mean: air conditioner on Defrost, turn on traffic information, soft music, defensive characteristics for assistance systems, engine and suspension, plus suggesting a call home to let the family know that the driver is going to be late.
A server in the secure Audi cloud hosts and processes the PIA data. Customers can view and manage these data at any time via their myAudi account. They can delete or edit data, such as following a change of address, and have the data automatically transferred to additional cars. The car identifies the individual user, loads the right user profile, and PIA then adapts the car and its interactive behavior accordingly.
Audi Electronics Venture GmbH (AEV), an Audi subsidiary, has overall responsibility for the PIA predevelopment project. Initial elements could make their way to production before the end of the decade and then gradually expanded thereafter to create a perfect, discrete driver’s assistant.
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.