“Today some of the most exciting innovations in consumer electronics, aren’t the ones in your living rooms and aren’t the ones in your offices. They are the ones inside your car, (especially) if it’s an Audi,” said Rupert Stadler, Audi AG's chairman, to a capacity crowd at this year's CES.
Aside from safety and green technology, Audi is seeking to improve its customers’ infotainment experience by keeping them informed and entertained, while at the same time, attentive to the road. Key to accomplishing this mission is software co-developer Elektrobit Automotive. The pair, who together are called e.solutions, is keen on reducing the production time, improve the quality, and shorten generation gaps of in-car tech. It continues to meld and integrate the modular, hardware, and software aspects of new systems, Stadler explained.
One forthcoming next-gen feature will be clear and vivid 3D heads-up displays that superimpose turn-by-turn arrows on actual streets seen ahead. Like today’s systems, they’ll also portray vehicle vitals like speed, temperature, etc. Navigation screens will continue to depict 3D maps in association with Google Maps.
“We found that if things are presented more realistically, they require less driver attention and limit driver distraction,” Stadler announced.
During his keynote the chairman also highlighted the growing partnership Audi has established with software and hardware engineering firm NVIDIA. Jenson Huang, NVIDIA’s founder and CEO, was on hand to explain his company’s latest Tegra 2 system that currently powers the A8’s MMI.
According the Huang, Tegra 2 is already powerful enough to create what he calls “virtual cockpits”, or those cockpits with fully digital displays and instruments.
“Doing a digital cockpit is incredible challenging,” Huang said. “The reason for that is that it has to have crystal clear graphics, it has to render at 60 frames per second, and it has to look realistic to the user. This is the direction we’re going into.”
Such user interfaces are capable of great visual feats.
“We can simulate any material,” Huang pointed out. “We can simulate metal. We can simulate aluminum or wood. But in this particular one (he points to a projected image) we’re simulating glass. And you can notice all the various reflections, refractions, shadows and lighting.”
Stadler concluded with a prediction that seems all the more plausible with each passing CES.
“Ultimately we see a world where the car is fully connected to the world of the internet, to other cars, as well as to traffic and other data streams. The car of the future is part of the mobile world, in every sense of that word.”