Future connect: Audi shows what tomorrow's world holds for drivers
Focus on technology
If a dictionary of car terms existed, the phrase 'Audi Connect' would require its own chapter. In summary, it means the inter-connectivity between the driver, the car, city and town infrastructure - such as traffic lights and car parks, and even the internet.
Just as BMW, Mercedes, Tesla and even Google are doing, Audi is staking its future success on the ability to process vast quantities of data and translate everything into a better, safer, driving experience. We recently partook in our own type of knowledge download of some of these digital advancements in Munich.
Starting with the process of choosing your next car, Audi has developed Audi VR. You can browse the range and select, customise and view your preferred choices in a virtual world. Slip on the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift VR goggles (Audi has not decided which to use but we preferred the fit of the Oculus) and being careful to mind your step, you can view the car from any angle.
You can sit down if you prefer. Peering closer to details such as the engine or brakes will present you with a detailed architecture of the component. It's not dizzying or sickly, either. It actually feels surprisingly normal and the cars are astonishingly detailed.
This is cutting-edge technology to the point where Audi worked with graphics processor behemoths NVIDIA, to create images that are up to three times more powerful than those found in a games console.
The benefit for customers? Audi admits many buyers are already well-educated about their products, but that purchasing decisions could be improved with better quality interaction with dealers. Would we use it if it was on offer here? Absolutely.
The results of pilot tests in six dealers throughout Germany will determine when Audi Virtual Reality becomes reality.
Virtual Reality headsets were not confined to the showroom floor as Audi showcased their usage in real cars. Donning the goggles once more, we drove an A4 in a controlled space and tested the safety feature called 'Audi pre-sense', an emergency braking system that prevents collisions when the driver is distracted. Our virtual world distracted us from a pedestrian crossing the road. The A4, in the real world, performed the necessary braking. It puts into practice what can be difficult to understand in theory.
If we go back to our dictionary and search for Swarm Intelligence, we see that Audi has formed a network strategy with BMW and Daimler. Car-2-Car and Car-2-X (X being anything that is not a car) is an area of enormous potential. The three German giants purchased the map database 'HERE' from Nokia and intend for their cars to communicate with one another through cloud computing.
Drivers can learn of traffic issues and road hazards such as fog, slippery conditions and break-downs; all in real-time. A 1:8 scale model version displayed how it works and it certainly looks impressive if the real-world application can be achieved. Audi will monitor how the driver behaves in certain instances and the car will adjust its settings to suit the driver's behaviour. Using the Swarm data, it is not inconceivable that our cars will be able to recommend optimum speeds so as to avoid having to stop at traffic lights. Wouldn't that be great?
Audi will couple its new Personal Intelligent Assistant (PIA) with a revised virtual dashboard layout, comprising haptic feedback touchscreens, in future cars with rumblings that it might even appear in the new model A8; which looms on the horizon. We will wait and see. The PIA is better at handling voice commands and learns the your driving, radio listening and phone call making behaviours. It will take some months to build a profile for you and if you buy a new car, your old data can be transferred. It is all exciting. The shape of things to come is really taking shape.