LAS VEGAS - Audi wants to pioneer the trend toward “connected cars in a connected world.” Hence it is investing heavily in the development of new infotainment systems, including improved multimedia interfaces (MMI), smarter driver assistance, and a more modular approach to integrating electronics in the car.
At the center of this effort is Ricky Hudi, the company’s chief executive engineer for electrics and electronics.
In an interview with a small group of journalists at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) here, Hudi explained key parts of the German Â premium carmaker’s strategy.
Hudi said Audi is making a major change by building its next-generation top-of-the-line infotainment system aroundNvidia's dual-core Tegra 2 chip. Through the use of a so-called Multi-Media eXtension board, the car company can adopt the same development cycles as the computer industry. “That’s a fundamental change for us,”Hudi said. Â The MMX computer module can be exchanged anytime to update the system.
Though Audi CEO Rupert Stadler told the CES in his keynote speech that he prefers embedded infotainment systems, Hudl said the company offers standardized interfaces to connect a wide range of external devices. “This is what the customer wants, but we would like to control it,” he said, citing safety issues as the main concern.
The electronics engineer noted that as much as 40pc of the cost of a new premium car comes from electrical systems and electronics, up from about 20pc as recently as 10 years ago. “With e-mobility, this will rise to 50pc,” Hudi predicted, noting that most of the functionality of an electric vehicle will be electronically controlled.
Hudi also explained how Audi’s development fits into the greater Volkswagen group. “In case of high-end electronics, Audi is clearly the leader in the group,”he said. But he added that a modular approach to new systems allows the brand to make all or parts of its new developments available to other VW brands. “It would be silly not to use the volume and power of the VW group,”he said.
Audi’s new infotainment generation will, sooner or later, also be provided to other VW brands, Hudi said.
Audi has a “multi-modal”approach to its multimedia user interface, Hudi explained. Audi vehicles allow traditional users to push or turn buttons the old-fashioned way, while more tech-savvy drivers can use a new touchpad to operate infotainment controls. A third option is voice control.
Hudi’s role in Audi’s technology development underscores the new direction the company ”“ and many of its competitors ”“ is taking. Automakers face a future where, on the infotainment side, they have have to keep up more with fast consumer entertainment lifecycles. Audi has formed hardware and software joint ventures and it is working closely with chipmaker Nvidia on next-generation systems.
In a sign of the times,Audi’s Stadler came to Las Vegas to addressone of the world’s biggest consumer-electronics trade shows. He wasn’t the only one, though. Ford CEO Alan Mulally picked the same show to unveil the automaker’s first fully electric car, the Focus Electric.
Stadler, in his keynote address at the CES, explained how his company is evolving. “We never stopped being a mechanical engineering company, even as we added electrical engineering,”he said. “ And on top of that, we’re now adding software engineering.”