|January 10, 2012
Source: Audi of America
Intelligent networking with Audi connect
The key word ‘Audi connect’ stands for networked mobility – it refers to a technical field in which Audi is the global leader. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the brand is presenting its current technologies and future projects. Especially interesting are the new solutions in hardware and user control in the new Audi A3.
Audi connect today
The term ‘Audi connect’ covers all applications and developments that connect Audi models to the owner, the Internet, the transportation infrastructure and other vehicles. Ricky Hudi, Head of Electrics/Electronics Development at Audi, describes it like this: “A defining feature of the last decade was that we fully integrated all the functions in the vehicle. Over this decade, we will be seamlessly networking the vehicle with its environment.”
Audi took on this task earlier than other carmakers – back in 2005, it launched joint projects with Google and Nvidia to develop software and hardware, and in 2009 the first Internet services were available in the automobile. This strategy resulted in the brand’s technological lead in the field of infotainment, which many Audi models offer today, starting with the compact A1.
For many young customers, the automobile’s image is changing today: it has evolved from a status symbol to a “mobile device” – a technological object that lets its users always stay online and connected while on the move. The Audi brand has developed its new customized Audi connect services for this. These services are supplied to the MMI via a UMTS module. Furthermore, an integrated WLAN hotspot lets front and rear passengers conveniently surf and e-mail from their mobile end devices.
In just a few years, the new LTE mobile radio standard will make data exchange even faster in many countries. In anticipation of this transition, Audi is developing new solutions in car-to-X communication and in the “Data in the cloud” field. Future driver assistance systems can also benefit from the fast LTE network.
All of these diverse connectivity options only make sense in the car if the driver can operate them easily and intuitively over an ingeniously designed interface. Audi is working intensively on such operating and display concepts.
The Bluetooth online car phone and voice control
The Bluetooth online car phone is available in many models; it produces the connection to the internet via a UMTS module that is integrated in the MMI navigation plus system. Another feature of the system, the WLAN hotspot, lets front and rear passengers connect up to eight mobile devices – from iPhones to laptops – so that they can conveniently surf and e-mail as they please, encrypted with WPA2.
The Bluetooth online car phone is operated via MMI navigation plus, using the multifunction steering wheel or by voice control. The telephone function and data transfer take place via the roof antenna in order to ensure optimum reception conditions. If the car is driving in an area outside the UMTS network, the system switches to the EDGE standard. All the driver needs to do to go online is insert a data-capable SIM card in the card reader. As an alternative, the driver can connect a cell phone to the system via Bluetooth, provided that it is equipped with the necessary SIM Access Profile.
Today, Audi is already the leading brand in ergonomics, and neutral tests have repeatedly confirmed this. It is also a leader in voice control, which can be delivered in many vehicle models. Key functions of the audio system, navigation and telephone – including address book – can be operated by voice control. If a Bluetooth online car phone is installed, voice control can also be used to operate the Google POI search.
Especially here, and in navigation, the Audi system proves to be a very strong performer: the driver can input his or her entire destination – city, street and house number – in a very natural way by speaking it in a single sentence. It is also still possible to call up the names of radio stations, media titles and contacts.
As an alternative to voice control, a second user control level is available in most Audi models in the form of a large rotary pushbutton. In the top model series, Audi also offers the innovative touchpad, MMI touch, which operates with handwriting recognition.
The driver writes letters or numbers on the touch-sensitive screen with a finger and the system provides acoustic feedback after each character is entered. A particularly useful innovation is MMI touch for Asian languages, as this can recognize and process several thousand characters.
Audi connect services of today
The Bluetooth online car phone offers the customer many customized Audi connect services. In this way, messages, trip and weather information and POIs from Google can be experienced in the vehicle. Drivers can plan their routes in advance on their home computers using myAudi, upload them to a special section of the www.audi.com website and download them from there to the car when setting out on the trip. If desired, the driver can view the map with background aerial and satellite images from Google Earth.
An especially attractive service is Audi online traffic information. This service displays current traffic flow data on the navigation map. If the route chosen by the driver has free-flowing traffic, it is shown in green; yellow indicates dense or slow-moving traffic, and red signifies a traffic jam. In this case, Audi online traffic information identifies the traffic problem in a text and suggests an alternative route that does not lead right to another traffic jam.
The Audi system is faster, more precise and more intelligent than conventional TMC and TMC pro solutions, and it also covers cities and country roads. The primary source of data for the database is from hundreds of thousands of smartphones and navigation devices that are carried in vehicles and report their current positions at short time intervals to service providers over the cell phone network. A detailed picture of the traffic load situation is derived from the data provided. Audi online traffic information has been launched in Central Europe, France, the UK and Italy; additional countries will follow in quick succession.
Another new Audi connect service is the POI search, which can be operated by voice control. The driver only needs to select a destination and name the desired category – such as the name of a restaurant or a term such as “flowers,” and he is then provided with a list of florists in the area. The voice command, or “voice tag,” is converted to a small data packet that is sent to the Google search engine.
The responses that appear on the onboard monitor often include the telephone number of the restaurant and additional information. Just a click of the mouse is all that is needed to book a table or order a bouquet of flowers.
Another pioneering Audi connect function is Google Street View. It shows the selected destination in advance, as it looks from the car, which makes it much easier for drivers to get their bearings.
Audi connect of tomorrow
A crucial aspect for the future networking of cars will be the mobile radio network – the future LTE standard, which was designed to exchange large amounts of data and will open up entirely new possibilities in this field. Audi is already developing an array of new Audi connect technologies today.
The LTE mobile radio standard
In most countries, mobile data is exchanged over existing UMTS networks. Depending on the expansion stage, the third generation (3G) of this mobile radio standard can currently enable a transfer rate of up to 28.8 MBit per second.
For the near future, Audi is relying on the fourth generation, or 4G, standard that is referred to as LTE (Long Term Evolution). The new network is being set up, and it enables data rates of 150 MBit/s and considerably faster response times. In the USA, large coverage areas are already offered by a network that goes by the name 4G – however, it is actually an HSPA+ (High Speed Packet Access). Commercial LTE networks are already available in several European countries and in the USA.
LTE technology enables the exchange of large files, such as music and movies, in HD quality. This is especially appealing to front and rear passengers. They can connect to the WLAN hotspot in the car via their mobile end devices and run different applications simultaneously; one passenger might participate in a video conference, for example, while another watches a YouTube video. Contacts between the vehicle and a service garage will also run via LTE in the future – the fast mobile radio network can be used to transmit software updates directly to the car.
In Germany, LTE is already available in some cities and in many rural areas as well. Driving trials that Audi recently completed together with Deutsche Telekom AG have confirmed that the LTE connection is stable over the entire Cologne metropolitan area. Audi is striving to be the first automotive service provider to implement the new standard in cars.
Data in the cloud
Today, Audi customers can already retrieve external data in the car via such features as Audi online traffic information, navigation with Google Earth and Street View services or POI search. In the future, however, it will be the fast LTE mobile radio network that will make a crucial difference and advance the technology to the level of “Data in the cloud” – the use of data located on servers on the Internet.
In the mid-term future, Audi is also working on integrating the online network services Twitter and Facebook into its cars – in a way that permits comfortable use for drivers. Incoming messages are read aloud; pre-set text building blocks are used to create messages. Ticker news, also known as RSS feeds, can also be played through the text-to-speech function. In addition, Audi is planning a City Events function that will provide useful information about the area where the car is currently located or a destination as well as flight information.
Apps for the smartphone
Apps for the smartphone are an important area of future interest . Most apps that can be purchased on the market are not suitable for use by a car driver. Therefore, Audi has developed its own customized applications that customers can use to individualize their cars.
For example, Audi apps make it possible to control and configure the car remotely. This will be of special interest in the electrically powered e-tron models; drivers will be able to check on the battery’s charge state from their living rooms and then plan the charging stations for their journeys.
A key aspect of Audi connect is the networking of the car with other vehicles and the transportation infrastructure. Car-to-X communication opens up many new opportunities for making driving safer, more relaxed and more economical.
Cars that are networked with each other could for example inform one another of emergency vehicles on the road, or warn one another of slippery streets or communicate at intersections. If they are networked with traffic lights, they can anticipate green lights optimally for continuous driving.
Observations of the traffic flow can promote an energy-efficient driving style – which is especially important for electric mobility. Another scenario is wireless payment of bills and fees at refueling stations or at a parking garage or lot.
There are two different scenarios for the establishment of Car-to-X technology, which Audi is helping to promote. In the one scenario, the LTE mobile radio network plays a key role – it routes data centrally to the servers of service providers who then send the data out, individually prepared, to individual vehicles. The other scenario relies on decentralized communication via automotive WLAN – the cars send data spontaneously and autonomously from one vehicle to another in a chain, which represents a new form of swarm intelligence.
The new standard was specially designed for mobile applications. Automotive WLAN, which operates at a frequency of 5.9 GHz, has a range of about two kilometers and is even suitable for very high driving speeds. In the European catalog of communication standards, it is listed as standard ITS-G5, where the acronym ITS stands for “intelligent transportation systems.” In the automobile, a special antenna is needed in addition to a receiver module in the roof area.
Specific Audi development projects in the car-to-X technical field include the intersection assistant (see below) and what is known as street preview. Similar to Audi online traffic information, it informs the driver of how heavy traffic is on the selected route. In this project, however, data is transferred by automotive WLAN – where suitably equipped vehicles act as transmitters and mutually inform one another of traffic conditions.
Even with relatively few vehicles, this system is able to generate the very latest, exact representations of the traffic situation. Audi and other German carmakers want to introduce street preview based on WLAN as soon as possible; it should be launched within this decade.
User control and display in the new Audi A3
In the new A3, Audi is further extending its classic strength – simple, easy-to-understand ergonomics. This compact car, which will be launched in many countries very soon, offers many advanced solutions.
One of these is an electromechanical parking brake, which replaces the mechanical component. Operation of the air conditioning system has been further enhanced. Many important functions can be controlled via the multifunction steering wheel – including a freely assignable button – and can be viewed in the driver information system display. The most interesting innovations, however, are in the area of infotainment – its hardware, software and user control.
Audi and Nvidia
“German engineering meets Silicon Valley” – a fitting slogan to describe Audi’s partnership with the Nvidia Corporation. Utilizing the fast graphic processors that the company supplies for many car model series, Audi has attained a leading position in the infotainment area. These processors have enabled innovations such as the world’s first integration of Google Earth images in the navigation map.
Audi and Nvidia began their joint venture in 2005. The A4, which appeared in 2007, already used a chip from this producer, which is based in Santa Clara, California. Two years later, the A8 attained a new dimension of visual display using Nvidia technology. Now, Audi and Nvidia are launching the next stage of their partnership – the new modular infotainment platform utilizes Tegra processors.
The modular infotainment platform
The Audi A3 is the first model of the brand to offer features from the modular infotainment platform. Audi is using this radically new architecture to solve a challenge that is becoming increasingly urgent – innovations in consumer electronics and rapid gains in computing power are being introduced at speeds that are much faster than the product cycles of automotive manufacturers.
The central computer in the modular infotainment platform, such as the one Audi currently uses, comprises two units – the Radio Car Control Unit and what is known as the MMX board (MMX: Multi-Media eXtension). The latter is a high-performance plug-in module which integrates – along with the working and flash memory – the latest Tegra processor from Nvidia; it is responsible for all voice control, online, media, navigation and telephone functions. The new modular layout makes it easy to update the hardware – the fact that the MMX board can be replaced keeps the system at the cutting edge of technology.
In the new A3, the T 20 processor of the Tegra 2 series from market leader Nvidia is used – it is a dual-core processor with 1.2 GHz clock frequency and a fast graphics card. It accelerates playback of many audio and video formats such as mp3 audio and mpeg4 video, which now dominate in the world of mobile entertainment.
The T 20 processor works together with a graphics program (what is known as a 3D engine) from the specialist Rightware – making Audi the first automobile manufacturer able to display three-dimensional graphics in a vehicle. The new A3 is saved as a data model in the system. Its drivers and passengers can view it virtually in detail and from many angles in the “Car” menu on the MMI navigation plus system. An all-new preview window has been integrated into the main menu.
In 2012, the next generation of processors will already be making its way into Audi cars – the Tegra 30, which Nvidia recently introduced. With built-in quad-core technology, it operates at up to 1.4 GHz clock frequency. As in the T 20, its power requirements are minimal – which fits in perfectly with Audi’s efficiency strategy. Nvidia is planning even more powerful chips for upcoming years, and Audi will introduce them in its cars soon after they appear.
The software that runs on the MMX boards also has a modular structure, and Audi developed the software largely independent of the hardware. In mid-2009 e.solutions GmbH was founded – a joint venture between Audi Electronics Venture GmbH, a fully owned subsidiary of AUDI AG, and Elektrobit Automotive GmbH, a division of the Finnish IT company Elektrobit. Audi contributes its knowledge of automotive infotainment to the partnership, while Elektrobit contributes its competence as a globally active software company in the infotainment and system integration fields.
More than 150 software specialists at the young company’s facilities in Ingolstadt and Erlangen are working to develop new modular infotainment solutions. e.solutions GmbH purchases functional software on the global market, e.g. for navigation or telephony, and integrates it into the e.solutions software suite.
New MMI terminal with touchwheel
Along with voice control, the MMI terminal is also used to control the many infotainment functions in the new Audi A3; it is located on the center tunnel console. Engineers designed a new interface from the ground up, giving special consideration to the slim center tunnel console compact Audi model.
The central component here is the touchwheel – which merges the touchpad and rotary pushbutton into a single part for the first time. The round pushbutton has a cap with a touch-sensitive surface that lets users enter characters by finger movement. The handwriting recognition system is of the highest quality, and the large touchwheel moves with high precision, and clicks precisely into place. The pad has a ring surround that is illuminated by an LED and a light conductor.
Two rocker switches in front of the touchwheel directly operate the most important areas of Telephone/Navigation and Media/Radio, while a Menu key and a Back key complete the key set. The four softkeys for navigating through the menus are also chrome, as are the two rocker switches that are used for direct operations. A volume control with integrated skip function completes the MMI terminal in the new Audi A3 and makes it possible to operate it intuitively.
Audi has completely revised not only the operation, but also the structure and many details of the menu. In the media area, for instance, the player and media center are clearly separated; titles, albums and artists can be located directly via free text search. The POI search in the navigation system has been simplified; traffic information can be called up via the map. The connect services have been grouped in their own menu; the Audi drive select control system is operated via the CAR menu, and many functions in the telephone area have been improved.
The new monitor
The displays in the new Audi A3 can be viewed on a monitor with a 7-inch diagonal. Thanks to its very high contrast and resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, it delivers brilliant, very sharp 3D graphics; highly efficient LEDs supply its backlighting. The display extends electrically from the instrument panel in an elegant movement, and it is slightly angled towards the driver. It is just 11 millimeters thick and is therefore almost as thin as an iPhone.
The monitor’s look is also reminiscent of the Apple cell phone – its cover glass plate is mounted directly to the surface of the TFT screen in a special lamination process. No air remains between the two components, and this improves optical performance. The painted housing is produced from ultra-light magnesium, which saves about 50 grams in weight. High gloss and chrome accents lend it an elegant touch.
The Audi Phone Box
Another option that is available in the new Audi A3 is the Audi Phone Box; it couples cell phones of any type to the vehicle perfectly. Its key component is a universal planar antenna, which is integrated in the center armrest’s phone storage tray.
The telephone utilizes near-field coupling to communicate with the flat planar antenna, which routes signals by wire to the vehicle antenna via an amplifier. The power supply for the cell phone runs via a USB port in the Audi Phone Box. Over the mid-term, Audi is working on a solution for contactless charging of cell phones.
The head-up display of the future
There are many Audi display and control technologies that make driving more relaxed and under control. One of them is the head-up display, which lets drivers keep their eyes on the road. All key information from the areas of navigation, traffic signs, car and assistance systems appear to hover about 2.3 meters (7.55 feet) in front of the driver, in his or her direct field of vision.
The next generation of this technology will take a significant step forward. A type of display known as the contact-analogue head-up display positions symbols right in the real environment. As an Audi approaches an intersection with the navigation system activated, the driver sees a transparent route arrow outside of the vehicle, positioned precisely at the real intersection. As the intersection nears, the arrow becomes larger. At a distance of 10 meters (32.81 feet), it appears to be about the same size as a real physical arrow on the pavement.
That is not all that contact-analogue head-up displays will be able to do. In hilly terrain, the navigation arrow can show the direction the road will take after the hilltop. If the driver is driving with adaptive cruise control activated, the distance to the vehicle ahead is displayed conspicuously. If the night vision system is active, and a pedestrian steps out onto the street, the display precisely shows the direction the pedestrian is coming from and his or her distance from the car. In the contact-analogue head-up display, the projection window – which is referred to as the ‘eyebox’ – is located somewhat higher on the windshield than today and is about as large as an iPad. Audi’s work on head-up displays is driving progress in all technology fields. In the future, it will be possible to show information only to the driver, the front seat passenger or all occupants of the vehicle.
The solution that Audi is presenting at the CES takes up this idea. The driver and front passenger each have their own head-up display available to them; the driver’s is contact-analogue, while the passenger has a conventional head-up display. Both displays show digital travel guides, news and pictures from video telephone calls. In the interest of safety, the driver is shown only static images and simple animations. If the passenger uses a wiping motion to pull the applications into his or her line of vision, all video functions become available.
Visible to all occupants is a central third projection, whose image appears to lie on the windshield. The driver or front passenger can move contents they are currently viewing to this central field with an easy, quick movement so that they can view it together. A camera detects the movements and directs the appropriate signals to the system.
Driver assistance systems
From adaptive cruise control with stop & go function to speed limit display – Audi offers a broad assortment of assistance systems that make driving even more relaxed and under control. In some of the large model series these systems are networked closely together, which gives them a high level of intelligence, versatility and capability.
Audi adaptive cruise control with stop & go function
The core component of the Audi driver assistance systems is adaptive cruise control (ACC) with stop & go function. The system regulates the vehicle’s speed and distance to the vehicle ahead by autonomously accelerating and braking over a speed range from 0 to 250 km/h (0 to 155.34 mph).
ACC stop & go utilizes two radar sensors mounted at the front of the vehicle, which are automatically heated in cold weather. They emit radar waves at a frequency of 76.5 Gigahertz over a fan-shaped field with an scanning angle of about 40 degrees and range of about 250 meters (820.21 feet). Sensor control units process the signals to detect vehicles ahead in traffic within the system limits.
The driver can influence ACC stop & go functionality by setting the time interval to the vehicle ahead and the type of control system dynamics over several adjustment levels, from sporty to comfortable. The maximum rate of deceleration produced by the system is limited to about 4 m/s² (13.12 ft/s²), which is a good one-third of what is possible.
In stop-and-go traffic, ACC stop & go autonomously slows the car to a stop. After a brief stop, such as at a traffic light, it automatically drives off and follows the vehicle ahead; after a longer stop, the driver must tap the accelerator pedal or briefly activate the control stalk.
Before driving off, the system checks the image data supplied by the video camera mounted near the rearview mirror. It is used to detect potential hazards, such as pedestrians who cross the street at the last second. This is supplemented by detailed information from the parking assistant’s ultrasonic sensors.
Adaptive cruise control with stop & go function interacts closely with other driver assistance systems; it utilizes the data of 27 control units to continuously analyze all of the vehicle’s surroundings. The system uses this broad knowledge base to recognize complex scenarios and offer anticipatory support to the driver. Because it also cooperates with the navigation system, it knows the course of the selected driving route in advance, so it can also compute the driving lanes in curves, for example.
ACC stop & go applies its knowledge in many different situations. Whether it is a matter of quickly passing a car that is making a right turn onto a highway, or whether another vehicle is merging into the vehicle’s lane on the freeway, the system handles the many diverse situations like a skilled driver – with reflection and composure – and this makes driving more fluid and harmonious.
Audi offers a number of versions of adaptive cruise control for different model series – including without the stop & go function. The individual versions differ slightly in their mode of operation due to the different degrees of networking and expansion levels
Audi active lane assist
One of Audi’s current assistance systems is Audi active lane assist; it is available for most model series that have electromechanical power steering. At speeds above approx. 60 km/h (37.28 mph), it uses a camera mounted in front of the rearview mirror to detect lane markings. The camera observes the road to a distance of over 50 meters (164.04 ft) and a scanning angle of about 40 degrees.
Software detects lane markings and the car’s actual course between them. If the vehicle approaches a line without the turn signal being activated, the system assists the driver in steering back into the lane by a gentle yet perceptible steering intervention in the electromechanical steering system.
The driver uses the MMI to set how soon the intervention should occur and whether it should be combined with vibration feedback in the steering wheel. If the driver opts for early intervention, the system keeps the car more precisely centered in the lane – a function that clearly sets Audi apart from the competition.
The color camera of Audi active lane assist in the A6 and A7 provides highly differentiated information. For example, it can distinguish the yellow lines in construction zones from white lines. Its image data is also used by other assistance systems, including ACC stop & go, speed limit display, the Audi pre sense front safety system and variable headlight range control.
Audi side assist
The Audi side assist lane-change assistant is available for a whole host of Audi models. It monitors traffic behind the vehicle and warns the driver of critical lane changes as necessary.
The system begins to operate at a speed of about 30 km/h (18.64 mph). Two 24 Gigahertz radar sensors at the rear of the vehicle monitor what is happening behind it with a range of up to 70 meters (229.67 feet). A computer evaluates their data.
If they detect another vehicle that is in the critical zone – that is, traveling in the blind spot or quickly approaching from behind – the information stage is activated. A yellow LED indicator lights up in the side mirror housing without disturbing the driver, since the driver only sees it when looking directly at the mirror.
However, if the driver activates the turn signal to change lanes, the indicator becomes brighter and flashes multiple times. This pulsed signal – the warning stage – is very noticeable. In this case, the indicator optics are directed towards the driver. The indicator brightness automatically adjusts for the ambient light conditions, or the driver can individually set its brightness via the MMI operating terminal.
Night vision assistant
The core component of the night vision assistant is a thermal imaging camera located at the front of the vehicle. It has an scanning angle of 24 degrees, its protective window is cleaned by its own washer nozzle, and it is heated in cold weather. As a far infrared system (FIR), the camera reacts to the heat radiated by objects in the recorded scene. A computer converts information from the camera to black-and-white images and displays them on the central display between the instruments.
Far infrared technology can look forward up to 300 meters (984.25 ft) ahead, far beyond the range of the high beams, and it is not affected by glare from headlights or similar light sources. Primarily, it focuses on what is most important: people. Regardless of whether they appear bright or dark to the human eye, they are conspicuously bright in the image due the heat they give off, whereas the cooler surroundings appear dark.
The image processing software can detect persons at a range of approximately 100 meters (328.08 ft). In analyzing the data, it specifically seeks out human characteristics, e.g. their contours. Detected persons are highlighted with a yellow marking in the display. If the control unit predicts a hazard, for example because a person is crossing the road in front of the car, the person is marked in red and a warning tone sounds. A warning also appears in the optional head-up display.
The image contrast can be configured individually via the MMI. Like every assistance system, the night vision assistant is also subject to certain system constraints. Highlighting of detected pedestrians is deactivated when the air temperature exceeds 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit), for example.
Audi offers a variety of automatic parking systems for its entire model line-up. They either operate with ultrasound or with cameras whose images are displayed on the on-board monitor.
One particularly convenient solution is park assist. When backing into a parking space, it performs all the necessary steering movements – it can handle both parallel parking and parking perpendicular to the street. The system finds a parking space with side-mounted ultrasound sensors that scan the parking spaces at the side of the road in two dimensions while driving at moderate speed. If a space of sufficient size is found, a message appears in the display.
If the driver wishes to park in the space offered, he or she engages reverse gear and the park assist system takes over the steering. The driver now only needs to accelerate, shift gears and brake; visual and acoustic use guidance supports the driver here. When parallel parking, the detected space is large enough if it is about 0.8 meters (2.62 ft) longer than the vehicle. Park assist can perform multi-point parking maneuvers and also offers support in leaving parking spaces.
The latest technology from Audi is the parking system plus with surround view cameras. Four small cameras – in the single-frame grille, at the rear and in both side mirror housings – record images of the vehicle’s immediate surroundings. The driver can easily call up different camera perspectives on the large on-board monitor, including not just front and rear camera views but also a bird’s eye view of the vehicle’s immediate surroundings.
The parking system plus with surround view camera not only helps when maneuvering, but also when exiting driveways with poor visibility. Its special views can show both the zone in front of the vehicle and the zone behind it which the driver can not yet see himself or herself.
Speed limit display
Like all assistance systems from Audi, the speed limit display helps to make the driver’s tasks easier. It shows the driver the detected maximum allowable speed in the instrument cluster or head-up display.
A camera mounted on the windshield behind the rearview mirror serves as the primary sensor. Within system constraints, it detects speed limit signs posted on the side of the road, as well as digital speed signs.
The detected traffic signs are compared with data stored in the navigation system, maximum allowable speeds for the particular country and vehicle information, e.g. whether the wipers are on, and the current clock time.
Audi pre sense safety system
Audi pre sense is a technology package for anticipatory safety. It is available in a number of different expansion levels in the larger Audi model series.
In the standard version – Audi pre sense basic – the system evaluates information from the ESP sensors. If they signal that full braking or skidding is occurring, the control unit intervenes. Depending on the situation, it might activate the hazard warning lights and begin to close the side windows and sunroof; it also pretensions the front seat belts. This pretensioning process, which is initiated by small electric motors, is reversible. If an accident does not occur, the seat belts are untensioned again.
The expansion levels of the new safety system are: Audi pre sense front, Audi pre sense rear and Audi pre sense plus. They work closely together with the Audi adaptive cruise control with stop & go function and Audi side assist driver assistance systems.
Audi pre sense front monitors traffic in front of the car for potential collision hazards. The system provides multiple levels of driver support. The first is a warning signal, and the second is a warning jolt caused by a brief braking pulse. Now, all the driver needs to do is press the brake pedal, and brake assist initiates braking. An avoidance maneuver – often the better solution – would also still be possible at this time.
Should the driver remain passive, the third stage follows – partial braking. This decelerates the vehicle with about one-third of the possible pedal force. The windows and sunroof begin to close, and the hazard warning lights are activated. The seat belt is also pretensioned in this case.
If the car has the full version of Audi pre sense plus, a fourth stage comes into play: first another round of partial braking, but this time at a moderate level, followed by maximum braking, during which the seat belts are fully pretensioned.
This occurs about half a second before impact, when a collision cannot be avoided any longer. Audi pre sense plus helps to reduce the vehicle’s speed by up to 40 km/h (24.85 mph) before impact, which reduces accident severity.
On some Audi models, Audi pre sense front integrates an additional function to protect against imminent rear-end collisions in the lower speed range. At speeds under 30 km/h (18.64 mph) the function automatically brakes the car – with full braking force, if necessary – regardless of whether the vehicle in front is moving or stationary. At speeds under 20 km/h (12.43 mph) the new function can often prevent an accident entirely. In other cases, it significantly reduces the vehicle’s speed at impact.
The Audi pre sense rear system utilizes the Audi side assist sensors and reduces the severity of a rear-end collision. Here, too, it closes the windows and sunroof and pretensions the seat belts. If the car has optional front memory seats, they adjust to a more favorable position for passenger safety.
Adaptive restraint system
In many models, passengers are protected by the Audi adaptive restraint system, which in some model series is networked with the anticipatory safety system Audi pre sense. It provides better protection for passengers of different heights than conventional systems, because the interplay of airbags and seat belt force limiters is managed intelligently.
Sensors on the front seat rails detect how far forward or back a seat is positioned. Because the control unit then knows the approximate position of the passenger relative to the seat, it can optimize use of the distance over which the upper body is decelerated by the seat belt and the airbag. Together with Audi pre sense, it reduces this distance by several centimeters because the belts are pretensioned before a crash occurs.
If a passenger is sitting close to an airbag, after the airbag inflates a portion of the air is quickly expelled via valves so that the airbag restrains the head and chest more gently. In other cases, the valves stay closed longer. The variable belt force limiters are also designed to be adaptive.
They control belt tension to keep chest loads as low as possible. Loads on the feet and legs are reduced by bracing structures, energy-absorbing pads and crash-optimized pedals.
The structural design of the seats and head restraints is an important safety feature, especially in the case of a rear-end collision. Such accidents often happen at traffic lights, usually at impact speeds between 15 and 50 km/h (9.32 and 31.07 mph). When this occurs, the seatback is accelerated to between 7 and 25 km/h (4.35 and 15.53 mph) within just a tenth of a second. The integral head restraint system, which is standard in every Audi model, counteracts the risk of whiplash injuries here.
All Audi models are equipped with either two or four side airbags to support the pelvis and chest of occupants in the event of a side impact. The side airbags also protect the head in convertibles and in the R8 and TT. In all other models, this task is handled by the head airbag system. It covers an area extending from the A- to the C-pillars, and it unfolds like a curtain from the roof frame to the door window sill. Three-point automatic seat belts with belt tensioners and Isofix mountings for child seats round out the safety package.
Driver assistance systems of tomorrow
Driver assistance systems that Audi is developing for the near future will be smarter, more versatile and more capable than today’s solutions. Although they do not detract from the responsibility of the person at the wheel, they will make driving even easier and more enjoyable.
Traffic jam assistant
The traffic jam assistant, a visionary technology from Audi, can relieve the driver at times when driving is not much fun, such as in congested traffic. At speeds between zero and 60 km/h (37.28 mph), the system helps to steer the car within certain constraints. It also accelerates and brakes autonomously. The traffic jam assistant can be used on expressways or in cities, provided that the course of the road is not too complex.
The traffic jam assistant is based on the functionality of adaptive cruise control with stop & go, extended by adding the new component of lateral guidance. Two radar sensors monitor fan-shaped fields, each with a 21 degree scanning angle and up to 250 meters (820.21 ft) long.
A wide-angle video camera monitors the lane markings, and it can also detect objects such as other vehicles, pedestrians and guardrails. Eight ultrasonic sensors monitor zones directly in front of the car and at its corners.
When ACC stop & go is turned on, the traffic jam assistant continuously analyzes the speed of the car and that of surrounding vehicles. If it detects a traffic jam from the data at speeds below 60 km/h, the driver can activate its functionality by pressing a button.
The corridor within which the traffic jam assistant drives the car is significantly wider than the lane between the lines; this allows for a certain offset relative to the car ahead. If it is necessary to make room for emergency vehicles or maneuver around an obstacle, the system follows the car ahead. The radar sensors not only detect the vehicle ahead, but also other vehicles in front of it. This lets the system compute a caravan lane. The traffic jam assistant behaves exactly like Audi ACC stop & go in accelerating and braking; it also reacts to cars moving into or out of the lane.
Audi pre sense city
Today, many cars from Audi can already slow themselves down over the last few meters before impact in case of an imminent collision, when the driver is no longer able to intervene. Audi brand engineers are further developing these functions.
Automatic maximum braking initiated by the vehicle in urban traffic, also known as Audi pre sense city, is based on a new type of sensor technology, and Audi played a major role in its fundamental development. The PMD sensor (PMD: photo mix detector) is a small chip that can measure distances in three dimensions, and it can do so more precisely than conventional sensors. It can detect both moving and stationary targets, and it can actively operate under conditions of darkness, rain or bright sunshine.
If there is an imminent collision within a speed range up to 65 km/h (40.39 mph), Audi pre sense city warns the driver by briefly pulsing the brakes. If the driver does not react, the system applies full braking force about one second before impact. This can reduce the speed at impact by up to 30 km/h (18.64 mph).
Another important function is anticipatory protection of pedestrians, which the PMD sensor can detect at distances of up to 20 meters (65.62 ft). If it signals a potentially hazardous situation, the system decides whether emergency braking is necessary. If so, full braking would ideally begin about one second before impact in this case too. The maximum possible speed reduction of 30 km/h (18.64 mph) is sometimes able to bring the car to a full stop in time to prevent a collision. The anticipatory pre sense technology offers very good protection for bicyclists as well.
Active emergency braking
Audi is developing another expansion stage of the pre sense system that can perform automatic full braking at speeds over 65 km/h (40.39 mph). Its core component is a laser scanner – a technology whose strengths lie in long-distance scanning, a high level of precision and a large scanning angle. The laser also scans zones to the sides in front of the car, which lets it detect construction activities on the edge of the road. If there is an obstacle in front of the vehicle, such as the end of a traffic jam, the system evaluates whether the driver can still take evasive action.
If evasive action is no longer possible, a timely warning is provided, and automatic full braking is initiated as necessary. This strategy achieves deceleration from relatively high vehicle speeds, which in turn can significantly reduce accident severity. It can also help in situations where the driver cannot react due to a medical emergency. In some scenarios, it is conceivable that the system’s braking interventions could prevent accidents, even from high initial speeds.
Active seatbelt buckle
Audi is continually working to enhance its restraint systems. Another potential future innovation: active seatbelt buckles for rear passengers that are moved by small electric motors. When a rear door is opened, the active seatbelt buckle would move upward several centimeters to make it easier for passengers to buckle up. Then it would return to its rest position. In case of an imminent collision, the buckle would be moved downward somewhat to pretension the seat belt; this process would be reversible.
As a general practice, Audi will be networking the adaptive restraint system more intensively with new assistance technologies. Forward-looking sensors such as PMD diodes can usually identify an imminent collision a few seconds before it occurs while also estimating the speed and size of the other vehicle. The adaptive belt force limiters and adaptive front airbags are triggered based on this information.
The intersection assistant aims to help to avoid collisions, or reduce their severity, where lanes merge and at intersections. Two radar sensors and a wide-angle video camera scan zones to the front and sides of the vehicle. The radar-based data takes the lead here, while the camera data is used for adjustments. If the sensors detect a vehicle approaching from the side and view the situation as critical, the system warns and informs the driver over a number of stages.
Audi is exploring a second variant, which is an extension of the sensor-supported intersection assistant. It is based on car-to-X communication and utilizes the radio contact between the two vehicles that could potentially become involved in an accident. At intersections identified as accident hot spots, it is conceivable that a modem could be used to incorporate the state of the traffic light in accident avoidance. Car-to-X technology exhibits a number of strengths. For one, it can operate at intersections where the line of sight of sensors fitted on the vehicle may be blocked. It is also effective over long distances and transmits vehicle-specific information. This information could be used to adapt airbag deployment to the mass of the other accident vehicle, for example.
When parking in narrow spaces that are perpendicular to the driving lane, or in garages in which there are not just cars but also bicycles and other items – parking is often so tight that the driver must struggle to get out of the car afterwards. The park pilot , a further technological vision from Audi, could solve these problems.
Utilizing technology that is installed in an Audi prototype, the driver can exit the vehicle in front of the garage and instruct it to autonomously park itself via the remote key fob or by smartphone. With the help of its ultrasonic sensors, the car drives into the parking space or garage, stopping immediately if it detects an obstacle.
Upon reaching its final parked position, it shuts off the engine, deactivates the ignition and locks the doors. Finally, it sends a confirmation to the driver.
Warning system for backing out of parking spaces
Driving in reverse out of a parking space at right angles to the road can often be a tricky maneuver. When the delivery van parked next to him is blocking the driver’s view of the traffic passing at right angles behind his own car, he or she must cautiously edge the car out into the street. A warning system for backing out of parking spaces – another future solution from Audi – makes this process easier.
The system utilizes the two Audi side assist radar sensors at the rear of the vehicle. They measure and interpret the distance, speed and anticipated driving paths of detected vehicles in cross traffic. Predicted collision risks are displayed.
Warning when opening the door
The exit warning system also utilizes the radar sensors of Audi side assist. This system offers excellent assistance when exiting the vehicle on busy roads. When the driver or a passenger starts to open the door, the sensors check whether another vehicle or bicyclist is approaching from the rear at a hazardous distance and a critical speed. If it is not advisable to open the door at that moment, the driver or passenger is provided with a warning.
Future car-to-X communication also harbors great potential in the area of lighting. One of many conceivable scenarios is when the car is halted at a red traffic light or in a traffic jam. During this period the headlights are dimmed to a large extent or switched off completely, to save energy and avoid imposing a possible burden on other road users.
When cars are able to exchange data directly, they can coordinate the brightness of their headlights, for instance in dense stop-and-go traffic or at intersections. The road can always be effectively illuminated without dazzling the drivers.