The future of infotainment in vehicles, is likely to be dominated by Android Auto and CarPlay, much in the same way as the smartphone industry has been divided up by the two tech giants behind both technologies, Google and Apple. However not every car maker wants to offer just those two options. Some of them have their own systems in mind, like Audi, which recently discussed its future plans for in-car infotainment at the Connected Car Expo.
While the 2015 version of the Audi TT is already known to have its own virtual dashboard, offering everything via an interactive and customisable user interface, the Audi A6 and A7 are coming with something else entirely. It’s called the MIB-2. No, it’s not got Will Smith in it.
This is the development that Audi has made with graphics partner Nvidia, and bundles one of the firms Tegra 30 SOCs, driven by a Tegra 3 processor, offering extremely high graphical performance as well as strong processing power to deliver a very visually impressive interface for users to interact with. The plan is, to make for a continually updating software system for Audi car drivers, meaning that as time goes on, it will improve and possibly even improve aspects of the car as well.
However, in years to come as the hardware becomes outdated, due to its set form factor, Nvidia will be able to offer A6 and A7 drivers an upgrade, giving the infotainment system increased performance, visuals and better connectivity, much like each generation of smartphones improves.
The new Tegra based system will handle two displays at once, one in the front instrument cluster for basic metrics like speed and revs, and a secondary one in the centre-stack for navigation and media playing functions. The latter of the two will also be used to display virtual 3D images, that can be used to make finding locations easier, as well as a 3D interface at times, for added interactivity.
Both the A6 and A7 will be compatible with 4G LTE wireless broadband, so downloading or streaming material on the go will be easy in built up areas. However they will also be able to rely on 3G connections in more remote areas.
While a lot of this might seem overkill at the moment, considering we’re only talking about the streaming of music, or podcasts and simple satellite navigation, which has been handled without fancy data packages and high end Nvidia processors for years now, what this does is future proof the Audi vehicles. That means that any fancy applications that come along in the next year or two, will be supported without the need for an immediate upgrade. However, when an upgrade is required, owners will be able to simply update their infotainment software and hardware, instead of having to buy an entirely new head unit.
All of this more advanced processing will be required too when we get cars that are more connected with one another and feature more automated safety functions, as with those in play we may be able to take our hands off the wheel in certain situations and then we’ll need high end graphical chips and good download speeds so we can stream out favourite movies straight to the car, from the cloud.