Infotainment has been driving technology development for years, presenting automobile manufacturers with ever-new challenges. Customers have come to expect innovations in mobile and home entertainment to be available in their own car as well. Audi recognized this development early on and responded by developing the Modular Infotainment Matrix (MIB). This opens up new options such as the Audi tablet, navigation using Google Earth and Google Street View, 3D sound for concert hall atmosphere, the Audi phone box as well as the smartphone interface for perfect in-car integration of Google Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
The Audi tablet
In launching the Audi tablet in the new Audi Q7 in 2015, Audi once again breaks new ground in infotainment. The tablet is a mobile infotainment system opening up all-new options in in-car use.
The Audi tablet features a 10.1-inch display and is expressly designed for use in the car. It will withstand high or very low temperatures with no issues. Its mounting makes it highly crash-resistant. Its brushed-aluminum chassis provides optical confirmation of its high-class character. At its heart is the new superfast Tegra 40 processor from NVIDIA.
The Audi tablet uses WLAN to establish a connection to MMI Navigation plus, thus obtaining access to the radio, media, navigation and car functions as well as to the internet via the in-car WLAN hotspot. The Audi tablet can also be controlled by the driver or front-seat passenger via the rotary pushbutton. Among other things, this allows front-seat occupants to start playback of a DVD or to switch on a previously selected radio or TV program for backseat passengers.
A 32 GB memory means the device can be used as a jukebox for audio and video files. This will let occupants watch Youtube videos and films from online streaming providers such as Watchever, Netflix etc. and play the audio via the car’s first-class sound system, alternatively using headphones connected to the Audi tablet via the aposite jack or via Bluetooth.
In addition, the Audi tablet supports NFC (Near Field Communication) technology. The driver can transfer a route planned on a mobile phone to the car using the NFC beam by simply holding the phone close to the Audi rings on the Audi tablet. The route will then be used by the navigation system. The NFC beam can also serve to transfer internet addresses and contacts stored on a mobile phone.
Finally, the Audi tablet extends travel planning to the rear-seat passengers who can now suggest routes and send them directly to the MMI. The driver can then accept or reject these routes.
A click on the “more” button in the main menu creates a connection to the Android operating system with all its functions. The user can access the Google Play Store and the Android App Store for a total of about a million apps and games, films and music, audiobooks, ebooks and office applications. An integrated full-HD camera means the Audi tablet can also be used for video calls via Skype.
Once arrived, the user can remove the Audi tablet from its holder on the back of the front seat and use it offline or on an external WLAN network.
Audi Navigation – always on the right track
Navigation based on Google Earth and Google Street View facilitates orientation considerably. Street View uses 360° panoramic images to provide the driver a street view of the destination. The navigation map is backed with images from Google Earth. Map zoom down to 30 meters (98.4 ft) is a unique feature.
An all-new offering in Audi Navigation is the option to display two complete maps in parallel. Besides on the familiar central display, maps can now be called up on the combination instrument as well.
Drivers can now update maps directly in the car via Audi connect. When new map material becomes available in the Audi Cloud, the customer will be provided with a notification. The car will determine which regions and countries the driver has visited frequently since the last update and suggest current versions of the respective map material. The system will then download and update the data for the selected countries via the customer’s installed SIM card using an LTE connection during the journey. Alternatively, Audi customers can use their computer to download the data from the myAudi platform and transfer it to their car using an SD card.
The navigation function will remain fully available during the updating process. Besides "learning" routes visited, the navigation system can also be configured to remember routes a driver travels every day. For instance, the system can register that the driver leaves home every Monday at 7 o’clock to drive to work, and note the driver’s work address. Many drivers do not use navigation on their daily commute because they are exactly familiar with the route.
However, this can make them miss current information on traffic disturbances along the way. Thanks to the new technology, when a driver now starts his car around 7 o’clock on Monday morning, the navigation can show the three most frequent destinations and expected times of arrival without the need to activate route guidance. In addition, the congestion tracking activates itself in the background to monitor these "learned" routes. If there is a significant disturbance on one of the routes, the system will alert the driver and ask whether it should calculate an alternate route – all without the need to activate route guidance beforehand.
Enhanced listening pleasure: 3D sound
Another Audi innovation in the new Q7 is 3D sound available in the Bose Sound System and in the B&O Advanced Sound System. Both play music in a novel format with additional speakers in the A pillars mapping height as a spatial dimension. In all, the B&O Advanced Sound System with 3D sound plays back music with 1,920 watts of amplifier power via 23 speakers including the subwoofer. This turns the automobile into a great virtual stage.
Using a sophisticated algorithm, the system extracts a third dimension from conventional stereo or 5.1 recordings and processes it for reproduction via the speaker array. This is to say that Audi implements the new technology currently being introduced in cinemas and living rooms for an all-new sound experience in the car. While the Bose Sound System uses proprietary algorithms, the B&O Advanced Sound System relies on technologies developed by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Integrate Circuits (IIS).
The Audi phone box
In some models, Audi offers the Audi phone box as an option for easy connection of cell phones to the car. Its centerpiece is a universal planar antenna integrated into the storage tray in the center armrest. The phone uses close-range coupling to communicate with the flat planar antenna, which transmit the signals to the car antenna via an amplifier.
A new feature in the Audi phone box is cordless charging based on the so-called Qi standard. Power is transferred via induction from a coil at the bottom of the Audi phone box to the receptive coil in the smartphone. This can be integrated in the battery, in a retrofittable foil or in the phone cover. The phone will remain fully operational during charging and can be controlled via the MMI system without restrictions.
Audi smartphone Interface
Another first is the Audi smartphone interface which includes Google Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. When an iOS or Android mobile is connected to the car’s USB port, corresponding icons appear in the main menu, and the driver can call up the respective application with one click. Both are tailored for use in the car. All functions can be controlled via the MMI system’s rotary pushbutton and via voice. The new Audi Q7 is one of the first cars worldwide to offer these functions from 2015.
The Modular Infotainment Matrix
The basis for integrating these functions into the car is the Modular Infotainment Matrix (MIB) and Audi’s own technology network enabling the brand to set new standards. Thanks to its revolutionary approach to the electronics architecture, Audi is approaching the short cycle times of the consumer electronics industry.
The MIB’s structure is key factor in this development. Its modular concept enables Audi to ensure the MMX board (MMX = multimedia extension) is always up to date, thus ushering consumer electronics trends into the car early.
The central computer in the MIB brings two primary components together in a tight space: the Radio Car Control Unit and the MMX board designed as a plug-in module. Besides the operating and flash memory, the board integrates a super-fast processor from Audi’s partner NVIDIA controlling all online, media, voice control, navigation and telephone functions.
At 2014 CES, Audi exhibited a pre-series variant of the MIB’s second generation just a year and a half after the launch of the first (MIB1). MIB2 went into volume production in summer of 2014 with the new Audi TT* and the facelifts to the A6* and A7 Sportback*. It uses an NVIDIA T 30 processor, a Tegra 3 series quad-core chip. It has a frequency of one GHz and a fast graphics board enabling it to control two displays simultaneously. The T 30 processor works together with a graphics program from specialist maker Rightware capable of rendering fascinating three-dimensional graphics.
The next generation of processors is ready for deployment in the Audi tablet. It is the quad-core technology NVIDIA Tegra 40. As in the previous chip, its power requirements are minimal – which fits in with Audi’s efficiency strategy. The brand is also uncompromising with respect to manufacturing quality. The processors are rigorously tested for the harsh operating conditions in a car.
NVIDIA has scheduled a rapid succession of ever more powerful chips for the years to come. Audi will integrate them into the respective models very soon after their launch, as it has done in the past. This is how Audi drives the integration of innovative high-performance components across the board.
Equipment, data and prices specified in this document refer to the model range offered in Germany. Subject to change without notice.