The term “Audi connect” refers to all applications and developments that connect Audi models to the owner, the Internet, the infrastructure and other vehicles. Audi is steadily extending its lead in this field with new infotainment solutions and developments.
Audi is among the pioneers in the field of mobile networking. The company began its collaboration with key hardware and software suppliers back in 2005, and the Audi connect Internet services became available in cars for the first time in 2009.
Audi connect broadband Internet module
The Audi connect module featuring mobile broadband Internet access combined with a mobile WLAN hotspot is an innovative extension of the top-of-the-line MMI navigation plus system. Audi offers it throughout nearly the entire model range.
In 2010, Audi became the first carmaker to offer broadband Internet access via an integrated UMTS module for all models, and in 2013 took another step in the direction of mobile, high-speed Internet with the introduction of the fully integrated LTE module.
The integrated WLAN hotspot allows the car’s passengers to connect as many as eight personal mobile devices. To go online, drivers merely need to insert a data-capable SIM card into the MMI navigation plus unit’s card reader to go online. Alternatively, they can connect their cell phone to the system via Bluetooth if it is equipped with the necessary SIM Access Profile. Additional charges or seperate contracts are not necessary; Audi recommends a flat rate, however, in view of the high amounts of data.
Operation is via MMI navigation plus, the multifunction steering wheel or voice control. To provide the best reception conditions, voice and data signals are transmitted via the car’s roof-mounted antenna.
The LTE mobile communications standard
The cellular phone network is key global factor for the networking of automobiles. In most countries, mobile device data are transferred via UMTS networks (UMTS = Universal Mobile Telecommunications System). Depending on the configuration, the third generation (3G) of this mobile communications standard currently enables a transfer rate of up to 21 Mbit per second.
LTE networks (LTE = Long Term Evolution) are already available in several European countries and the United States. In Germany, the fourth-generation mobile communications standard is already active in all major cities and in rural areas. Audi brought LTE technology to the automobile in 2013: the latest generation LTE Audi connect module is used in the models of the A3 family. Further model lines will follow in the near future.
The fully integrated LTE module supports data rates of up to 100 Mbit/s downstream, 50 Mbit/s upstream and very short response times. This enables the transfer of large volumes of data, such as music and high-definition films, as well as short ping times for interactive applications such as games. Passengers in the new Audi A3 can run different applications at the same time on their mobile devices. One of them can participate in a conference call, for example, while another watches a video.
Thanks to the full integration of the module, it is not just mobile end devices that benefit from the high-speed receiver technology. It was important during the development process to not only provide a high-speed Internet connection mobile devices, but also to provide high-speed Internet access for the car’s internal systems. This enables Audi connect services such as navigation with Google Earth and Google Street View to load and display much, much faster.
Full integration of LTE and the associated fast transfer of data will enable the targeted expansion of the Audi connect range in the years ahead, from cloud-based music services to car-to-X services such as wireless payment or communication with traffic signals. LTE makes it possible to provide these services everywhere, even in rural areas.
Audi connect services
Audi connect brings numerous tailored services to the car, such as online news, travel and weather information, and up-to-the-minute information on flight and train connections. In the Audi A3, they can be used with a convenient text-to-speech function.
Online traffic information presents current traffic flow data in real time on the navigation map. If the route chosen by the driver has free-flowing traffic, it is shown in green; orange indicates dense or slow-moving traffic, and red signifies a traffic jam. In this case, the service identifies the problem and suggests an appropriate alternate route.
The online traffic information service covers not only freeways, but also interurban roads and cities. It covers most European countries. The primary source of data for the database are smartphones and navigation devices that are in vehicles and report their current positions at short intervals to service providers via the cell phone network. The conditioned and anonymized data provide a detailed picture of the traffic load situation.
Navigation with Google Earth and Google Street View facilitates orientation on reaching the location considerably. Street View uses 360° panoramic images to provide the driver a street view of the destination prior to arrival. The navigation map is backed with images from Google Earth. Map zoom down to 30 meters is a unique feature here.
City Events is an Audi connect service that provides information on a multitude of events at the current location, a travel destination or a freely selectable location. Customers can filter according to various categories such as concerts or sporting events.
Flight and train information from Audi connect can be used to check departure times, track and gate numbers, and also obtain information on any delays. There is also a direct search function for finding specific flight numbers.
The Fuel prices service, which in Germany also draws information from the Market Transparency Office, lists the cheapest gas stations. In the Audi A3, it even considers the type of fuel required.
Among the newest Audi connect services is the Parking space information service. It displays parking lots and parking garages at the current location, at the destination or at any other location. Whenever possible, it also indicates the number of available spaces and parking fees. The parking lot address can be easily set as a navigation destination, and the surrounding area can be checked out in advance using Google Earth and Google Street View.
Audi connect also integrates the online community services Facebook and Twitter in the infotainment system in a vehicle-specific way. In addition to the text-to-speech function, there is also a text function - predefined text modules can be sent, if desired, with data such as the current position. Like several other Audi connect services, Facebook and Twitter can be customized to the user’s individual needs on their home PC using a myAudi account. In addition, received e-mail messages can be transferred from a cell phone to the car via Bluetooth and read aloud. The driver can dictate texts (SMS) and send them using voice commands.
Another service from Audi connect is Picturebook Navigation. With this service, the driver stores photos of destinations linked with geonavigation (GPS) data in the MMI navigation plus system’s “photo box.” The can be either personal photos or images from Google Street View. Images can be imported from an SD card or via a myAudi account. The photos can then be browsed in Cover Flow and entered as navigation destinations by reading out the linked GPS data.
Key Audi connect functions can be controlled via voice commands, including the point-of-interest (POI) search. The driver can speak the destination – city, street and house number – as a single sentence. The POI search also supports the use of keywords to find special destinations. The voice command is translated into a data packet and sent to the Google search engine. The hit list appearing on the MMI monitor often includes practical additional information such as telephone numbers or ratings.
Audi music stream is the Audi connect web radio. With this app and UPNP (Universal Plug and Play) technology, the user can receive broadcasts from more than 3,000 Internet radio stations. Personal favorites can be saved to a cell phone, and they can be played via the MMI navigation plus system. This Internet radio app is integrated via WLAN into the MMI navigation plus, and the car’s sound system handles playback. The app also provides access to the media library stored on the user’s smartphone.
Audi music stream is available either as an independent smartphone app or integrated into Audi MMI connect. This app, which is currently available for the A3 family, makes a number of additional services available on the mobile device. Audi MMI connect is thus the direct link to the car. Services such as the POI search, City Events and Picturebook Navigation can be used via the app and the search results or photographs sent directly the MMI navigation plus unit in the car.
In future infotainment systems, a mobile app will integrate the online media services Napster (Rhapsody in the United States) and Aupeo! in the Audi connect portfolio into MMI. WLAN will be used to wirelessly transfer the services from the iOS or Android device to MMI. As will all Audi connect services, the user interface is integrated into the familiar human-machine interface (HMI), ensuring ease of use.
Audi connect - outlook
The role of the car in society is changing appreciably. It is increasingly moving from a status symbol to a mobile device, a technical device that enables the user to be always online even when underway. The fast LTE mobile communications network will provide a strong push to the subject of data in the cloud (the use of online data) and car-to-x communication. The brand is assuming a leading role in this development as well with its new Audi connect technologies.
Car-to-x communication, another important aspect of Audi connect, opens up numerous new possibilities for making driving safer, more relaxed and more economical.
Cars that are networked together can warn one another about hazards such as slippery roads or cross-traffic at intersections, for example. Car-to-x communication is also extremely well suited for the dissemination of traffic information data. Automotive WLAN communication, in particular, can generate very precise and exact data.
Online traffic light information
Among the new car-to-x applications at Audi is the service Online traffic light information. It networks the car with the central traffic control computer that controls the traffic lights in the city. Targeted information appears in the display of the driver information system. It shows the driver the speed to select in order to reach the next traffic light during a green phase. The time remaining is displayed while waiting for the light to turn green.
Audi developed and tested the principle of the new Online traffic light information service as part of the Travolution project in Ingolstadt and the nation-wide field trial simTD (Safe and Intelligent Mobility Test Field Germany). It benefits not just the drivers by making traffic more fluid, less stressful and safer, but also the cities and the environment in which it is used. According to Audi’s calculations, CO2 emissions can be reduced by up to 15 percent. If deployed throughout Germany, this would correspond to a savings of roughly 900 million liters (237,754,847.12 US gallons) of fuel.
Audi is currently gathering additional experience in multiple field trials. In the northern Italian city of Verona, some 60 traffic lights covering nearly the entire city center are part of the trial. A field trial in Berlin involves a total of 1,000 traffic lights and 25 Audi cars driven by customers. No other carmaker is active on such a large scale. The principle is currently being demonstrated with 50 traffic lights in the American city of Las Vegas, Nevada.
The results show that the technology for the Online traffic light information system has reached market maturity. Provided that enough cities make their data available, there is nothing standing in the way of a broad rollout. A market launch is currently the subject of intense analysis in the United States.
The members of the A3 family are the first Audi models to have the modular infotainment platform (MIB) on board. When launched in 2012, it meant for Audi the start of a new era of infotainment. Even then its architecture met a challenge that is becoming increasingly pressing: Carmakers with their relatively long product life cycles must come to terms with the fast pace of consumer electronics in order to continue to meet customer needs and requirements in the future.
The modular infotainment platform
The central computer in the MIB brings two primary components together in a tight space: the Radio Car Control Unit and the MMX board (MMX = Multi-Media eXtension). Besides the memory and flash storage, the plug-in module also includes a fast Tegra processor from Nvidia that handles all online, media, voice command, navigation and telephony functions.
The modular system concept enables Audi to keep the MMX board up to date as development continues and thus quickly bring the latest trends in consumer electronics to the car.
At the 2014 CES, Audi is therefore presenting the second generation of the MIB just one-and-half years after its market launch. Series production will began during the course of the year. The updated modular infotainment platform uses the Nvidia Tegra 30 processor, a quad-core chip from the Nvidia Tegra 3 series. With a clock speed of over 1 GHz and a fast graphics card, it can drive two displays and perform eight billion operations per second. The T 30 processor works together with a 3D graphics program from the specialist Rightware. With this combination, Audi is the first carmaker with the capability of implementing and displaying three-dimensional graphics in its vehicles.
The next generation of processors is already waiting in the wings: the Nvidia Tegra 40, which is also a quad-core design. As in the previous chip, its power requirements are minimal – which fits in perfectly 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 plans to regularly release ever more powerful chips in the years to come, and Audi will introduce them in its cars soon after they appear thanks to the modular MIB concept. Audi is pursuing a broad scale program of component integration. The next big step in the development of the MIB will be the use of multi-chip modules (MCM).
Audi Phone Box
Audi offers the Audi phone box for easily connecting cell phones with the car as an option in the models of the A3 series. Its key component is a universal planar antenna, which is integrated into the center armrest’s phone storage tray. The telephone uses near-field coupling to communicate with the flat planar antenna, which routes signals via an amplifier to the car antenna.
A future feature of the Audi phone box will be wireless charging – the brand is bringing contactless charging to production vehicles. Electricity flows from a coil in the floor of the Audi phone box via induction to the Qi standard to a receiver coil in the smartphone. The receiver coil can be integrated into the battery, a retrofittable film or the phone cover. The telephone can be used without restriction while charging and can be controlled via the MMI system in the accustomed Audi manner.
Audi Smart Display
Audi once again breaks new ground in the infotainment sphere with the Audi Smart Display. Comparable to a portable computer system, the 10.2-inch Smart Display is compact, yet high-resolution. An active, fast computer, it opens up entirely new dimensions in its role as a mobile in-car entertainment system.
From DVD and TV streaming to remote access in the car to multimedia content, and from control of the radio to route planning for the navigation system, the Audi Smart Display combines practicality and entertainment in one device, both inside and outside the vehicle.
The Smart Display is connected to the car via a WLAN link to the MMI navigation plus with Audi connect. Radio and media, navigation and even car data can then be shown on the device’s touch display.
The unit’s internal storage serves as an audio and video jukebox, but the Audi Smart Display can also receive video from the MMI navigation plus.
The Smart Display uses the Audi sound system to play back sound in perfect quality. External headphones can also be connected via Bluetooth or a standard headphone jack. The Smart Display also supports NFC (near field communication) technology, making it particularly easy to connect to Bluetooth headphones and mobile devices in general.
But the Audi Smart Display has even more to offer. Thanks to the WLAN connection, clicking on the “more” button in the start menu establishes an Internet connection with UMTS or LTE speeds via Audi connect.
The full functionality of the Android operating system is available. Google Play, the Android app store, provides access to more than 950,000 apps and games as well as movies, music, audio books and eBooks. The integrated camera in the Smart Display can be used for Skype video calls, and the QuickOffice app keeps users productive while on the road.
The Audi Smart Display was systematically developed for use in cars. It can easily withstand high and very low temperatures, and its brushed aluminum chassis visualizes the device’s premium character. All computing operations are extremely fast thanks to the new Tegra 4 processor from Nvidia, the heart of the device.
The equipment and data specified in this document refer to the model range offered in Germany. Subject to change without notice; errors and omissions excepted.