18 April 2012

The future of connected cars: what Audi is driving towards

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Richard MacManus writes on ReadWriteWeb that the next generation of in-car apps will be about providing “smart” services, such as taking some of the cognitive load off the driver – including making the car autonomous in some ways. And he provides Audi (which just bought Ducati, by the way) as a case in point:

“One area where in-car technology will evolve is navigation; in particular how the car can automate some navigation aspects. [Anupam] Malhotra told me that Audi is currently figuring out “what the vehicle’s role is as the navigator.” Right now this is done via Google voice controls. For example if you’re looking for a spicy chicken lunch, you can tell the system “spicy chicken” and it will inform you of the nearest eatery where spicy chicken is available.

Another area that Audi is targeting is the HMI (Human-machine interface) in the car. The first generation was buttons around the driving wheel and touchscreen controls in the dashboard. Voice controls came next, with the Google voice system being the latest iteration of that for Audi. In the near future we will see gesture controlled systems, which Audi demonstrated at CES as a concept. Gesture controls will be used not just by the driver, but passengers in the car.

The software in the vehicle will also evolve, said Malhotra, to take away some of the decision-making from the driver. Not so much in terms of driving, which people want to keep control over. It will be focused on things that augment the driving experience. Features such as lane departure sensing, warning systems if there is a car in your blind spot, technology that protects the car occupants in the event of a collision. “All of this will happen through connectivity,” said Malhotra.

The overall goal of these future-looking developments, Malhotra said, is to take away the “misery” aspects of driving; like parking problems, dealing with traffic congestion, fuel management. This will allow the driver to enjoy the actual driving part.”

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