So that the user is readily able to grasp the parallels between the spatially separate control element and display, the design of the control element corresponds to that of the display.

When operating the system, the driver easily finds his way round thanks to the visual analogies and colour-coding.

To project information, there are two high-resolution displays in the driver's primary field of view: a seven-inch monitor on the upper end of the centre console, and a second colour display at the centre of the instrument cluster. True to good Audi practice, the display in the instrument cluster shows only information that is of relevance to the driver, such as on-board computer calculations, navigation instructions or cruise control information.

The driver has the choice of operating the system's basic functions via a rotary selector in the multifunctional steering wheel; this enables the driver to keep his hands on the steering wheel, thus further minimising the risk of being distracted from the traffic situation.

If desired, the basic infotainment functions such as radio station selection, volume adjustment and phone number selection can be accessed from here. The colour display in the instrument cluster follows the same design principle as the seven-inch central monitor screen. The driver consequently does not need to adjust mentally when switching his gaze from one display unit to the other.

The Internet in the car

In unveiling the MMI, Audi is also opening up a new chapter in automotive communication and information options. Through the Multi-Media Interface, the car becomes another element in the Internet.

The challenge is to select and process the information that meets the specific requirements of a mobile user. The implementation of Internet technologies in the car thus systematically extends the existing basic range of telematics services such as traffic information retrieval and emergency calls, adding the new form of online services. These services provide automotive-specific applications via the Internet. The range may extend from the mobile office with Web and email connection to the online travel guide that can be networked with the car's navigation system.

The technical basis for in-car Internet applications consists of standardised protocols and an HTML browser developed specially for automotive use; it is capable of representing images as well as texts.

The functions for wireless communication are in turn grouped together in the telematics communications unit. Transmission methods such as GPRS and the forthcoming UMTS are responsible for establishing the connection between the terminal device in the vehicle and the Web.

Access is via the Audi Online Portal, which assures a wireless, secure connection via the mobile communications network. A modern firewall concept reliably protects communication between the vehicle and the Audi portal against unauthorised manipulation.

This enables customers to access data on the Web actively from the vehicle, for instance to transfer route recommendations to the vehicle's navigation system.

The Audi portal site is designed as an information, mobility and communication platform. Its objective is to network the available information and integrate it into the vehicle electronics in such a way that driver and vehicle benefit to the full.

This principle applies not just to the content, but also to the design of the user interface in particular: the ergonomics and presentation of the online service must be integrated into the overall operating concept. The operation of Internet-based applications is thus optimised for the MMI and its rotary controls/pushbuttons and softkeys. Large, easily legible fonts, relevant images and clear layouts for both daytime and nighttime use are among the specific requirements of in-car use.

The system has further potential thanks to its scope for personalising. Every driver can configure his own profile of interests, and will then be supplied with personalised content. This facility can be further extended with the option of using the personalised profile independently of a specific vehicle. A driver can thus calculate a route on his home PC, and call it up the next day from a hire car.

This handful of examples nevertheless serves to illustrate that Audi is looking to the future with system and vision. To a future that will see automotive technology enter a new dimension in the way in which it combines comfort, safety and individual mobility. The MMI exhibit at the Frankfurt Motor Show provides a foretaste of things to come.

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