A crucial aspect for the future networking of cars will be the cell phone network. The LTE standard, designed to exchange large amounts of data, will open up entirely new possibilities in this field. Audi is already developing an array of next-generation Audi connect technologies.
The LTE mobile communications standard
In most countries, mobile-device data is transferred via UMTS networks (UMTS = Universal Mobile Telecommunications System). Depending on the type of configuration, the third generation (3G) of this mobile communications standard currently enables 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 currently being set up; it enables data rates of 150 MBit/s and considerably faster response times. Commercial LTE networks already exist 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. The on-board WLAN hotspot allows them to do different things on different mobile terminal devices at the same time. One passenger can participate in a video conference while another watches a YouTube video.
Contact between the vehicle and the workshop will also run via LTE in the future. The fast mobile communications network can transmit software updates directly to the car. In Germany, LTE is already available in some cities and in many rural areas, as well. Audi is striving to be the first automotive manufacturer to provide the new service in its vehicles.
Data in the cloud
The speedy LTE mobile communications network will promote “data in the cloud” pursuits considerably. While specific data such as customer data is protected on IT servers in Ingolstadt, customers can store via online servers whichever music, photo or video files they choose. Audi envisions such cloud-based use of media under the banner of “seamless media.”
Users of “seamless media” can use any terminal device at any time to access and enjoy such files from external servers. Imagine, for instance, that a child is watching a film at home on an iPad. The child can simply pause the film, get in the car, and resume watching content without missing anything. Data is routed via the customer’s SIM card.
In the medium term, Audi is working on integrating Twitter and Facebook into its cars – in a way that permits safe and convenient use for drivers. Incoming messages are read aloud; templates are used to create outgoing messages.
Intermodal route planner
Audi’s intermodal route planner is a visionary tool for the mobility of tomorrow. It allows people to plan relatively long journeys which entail using two or more modes of transportation. It is especially appealing for owners of electric vehicles, who generally drive only short distances. The intermodal route planner is an intelligent software solution which can be used on smartphones and via an MMI terminal inside an Audi.
As soon as a user selects a destination, a list appears of every available mode of transportation: by car, plane, train or bus, or on foot. As soon as a route has been planned, the software will guide the user step by step. If he is in his car, for example, the route planner will guide him to the train station. While riding the rails, he can access information about the station at which he will change trains or board a bus. Last but not least, local maps help people on foot get oriented and find their way.
Prepared and provided by Audi’s back-end servers, information is transmitted seamlessly to smartphones and MMI monitors alike. A package of mobility information rounds out the range of services by providing the user with tailored, trip-specific information regarding flights, train schedules and parking options.
Apps for smartphones
Yet another key topic of tomorrow at Audi concerns smartphone apps. Many of them are not suitable for use while driving. Therefore, Audi has developed its own customized applications that customers can use to personalize their cars.
For example, Audi apps make it possible to check on and configure the car remotely. This will be of particular interest regarding the electrically powered e-tron models. Drivers will be able to check on the battery level from their home and then determine which charging stations they might patronize.
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 networked with each other can alert drivers to wet or icy roads; they can also communicate to avoid accidents at, for example, intersections. If they are networked with traffic lights, such vehicles can accurately anticipate green lights for uninterrupted cruising. Insights into traffic flows can promote an energy-efficient driving style – which is especially important for electric mobility.
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 communications network plays a key role. It routes data centrally to the servers of service providers, who then transmit individually prepared data to individual vehicles. The other scenario relies on decentralized communication via automotive WLAN. Cars send data spontaneously and autonomously from one vehicle to another in a chain, which represents a new form of collective intelligence.
This 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; the acronym ITS stands for “intelligent transportation systems.” A special antenna is needed in addition to a receiver module on an automobile’s roof.
Audi development projects in the car-to-X field include the intersection assistant (see below) and what is known as street preview. Similar to Audi online traffic information, it notifies the driver of traffic conditions along a selected route. In this project, however, data is transferred by automotive WLAN: suitably equipped vehicles act as transmitters and mutually inform one another of traffic conditions.
Even with relatively few vehicles, this system generates the very latest and precise representations of traffic situations. Audi and other German carmakers want to introduce WLAN-based street preview as soon as possible; it is set to be launched this decade.
Car-to-X communication also bears great potential regarding headlights. One of many conceivable scenarios is a car stopped at a red light or stuck in a traffic jam. During this period, the headlights are considerably dimmed or switched off completely to save energy and to avoid potentially annoying other road users. When cars are able to exchange data directly, they can coordinate the brightness of their headlights in dense stop-and-go traffic or at intersections, for instance. Roads can thus always be effectively illuminated without drivers’ eyes being dazzled.
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.