Innovative Audi concept cockpit uses Google and Rightware technology
At the 2017 Geneva International Motor Show in March, Audi presented a concept vehicle that demonstrated the potential of its future large and “efficient” Q8 SUV model range. The concept vehicle’s propulsion architecture is new for Audi, for the first time combining a 331-kW (450-hp) 3.0-L TFSI six-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric powered turbo/compressor and a mild-hybrid system for energy recuperation. And the concept’s instrument panel, with its distinctly horizontal layout, previews a new user interface approach for the company.
The central control and display surfaces are integrated into a “black panel” glossy black strip framed by an aluminum surround. When the car is switched on, the blank panel displays become visible. With the new control and display concept, information and commands are passed primarily through touch displays augmented by a future-oriented Audi Virtual Cockpit and head-up display (HUD) that concentrates systematically on the most important items depending on the situation.
The contact-analog HUD projects important info onto the windshield in the driver’s direct field of view, placing some graphics over the real scene. A navigation arrow, for example, appears in the same position as an actual arrow on the road, which Audi says is an intelligent application of augmented reality. The notifications from the driver-assistance systems are also said to merge the virtual and physical worlds.
The new “Virtual Cockpit Future” is more dynamic than the current production iteration. Through new functions and higher resolution of 1920 x 720 pixels, it displays graphics with more detail. In “auto” mode, the 12.3-in TFT (thin-film transistor) display has more space for maps, lists, and other information. A top-down map view visualizes the selected route, and when zooming in, the current position and surroundings are shown in 3D. If “performance” mode is selected by a steering-wheel button, speedometer and power-meter needles appear in a three-dimensional display.
All other Q8 sport screens are touch displays for “direct, fast, and intuitive operation,” reducing the number of buttons, switches, and levers—and making the interior neater and more streamlined. The center MMI (multimedia interface) controls the infotainment system and vehicle settings. A climate-control display is integrated into the diagonally sloping lower section of the center console. If seat sensors detect a front-seat passenger, his/her touchscreen shows climate-control settings. Another smaller touchscreen to the left of the steering wheel is reserved for lighting functions.
Backing up the interface is an infotainment system with an open Android Auto operating system architecture. The fully integrated HMI (human-machine interface) was presented at the Google I/O developer conference in May in the hopes that the know-how of the Android community can speed up the development of future in-car apps.
The Q8 sport Android OS has new functions for an Audi’s brand-specific infotainment system, including Spotify streaming, Google Play Music, and Google Assistant, all run on the large MMI touch display in the dashboard center and in the driver’s Virtual Cockpit if called upon. While the navigation map continues to use the Audi-typical Here database, the driver can also choose to navigate with Google Maps. An area for incoming messages and calls round out the new show-car services.
The seamless integration of Android harbors tremendous potential, claims Audi. With more than 1.4 billion active users worldwide, Audi hopes that the open Android community’s immense breadth of expertise and creativity can speed up the development of new apps. Other customer advantages alongside shorter update cycles include a significantly greater diversity of services as well as broad international availability.
Also at Google I/O, Audi and automotive user-interface software company Rightware demonstrated seamless integration of services across the multiple displays of the Q8 sport. Rightware's latest product, Kanzi Connect, enables Audi to integrate features from the Android embedded infotainment console directly into the safety-critical, real-time operating system powering the digital instrument cluster.
The user experience is powered by Kanzi UI and Kanzi Connect. The user interfaces for both instrument cluster and HVAC control panel were developed by Audi engineers using the Kanzi UI design and development tool. In the use case shown at Google I/O, an onboard Kanzi Connect server interfaces directly with the Here Open Location Platform (OLP) via the cloud to retrieve map tiles and geometry, and to the Android-based infotainment console for GPS coordinates, turn-by-turn directions, and street names.
The various resources are combined and rendered in the instrument cluster by a Kanzi graphics engine. While the three displays are driven by isolated operating systems, Kanzi Connect allows each to access the same services and data to deliver a unified experience at the UI level.
"Kanzi Connect enables seamless integration of the multiple displays and operating systems, with the latest runtime engine now able to render high-definition 3D maps in the instrument cluster," said Alfons Pfaller, Head of Infotainment & Connected Car, Audi AG. "By participating in the Kanzi Connect technology preview program, Audi is able to pilot new experiences while providing us with invaluable feedback as we finalize development," added Ville Ilves, President, Rightware Inc.
Rightware's range of tools and services is available under a technology-preview program to customers seeking early access and an opportunity to provide input into the direction of its development. To learn more, please visit www.rightware.com/kanzi-connect.