September 20, 1999

IAA 1999 - Focus on the megaCar Audi A8
Article and photos by Jason Teller

At nearly $300,000 Usd, the megaCar Audi A8 is one of the most expensive cars in the world. For the top business and political leaders, however, the electronic conveniences integrated into the car could be priceless. MegaCar showed their new modified Audi A8 at the Frankfurt Auto Show and in the process gave the public a view of the future. There's every reason to expect that the cars of the future will have robust internet connectivity. Why wait -- this Audi has it all today.

MegaCar is the product of a data security company called data protect. Although finding and eliminating security holes in their customer's IT infrastructures is the focus of the company, they occasionaly work on innovative projects such as megaCar. About 90% of the ideas behind megaCar come from Kim Schmitz and his data protect team. Without adequate partners, however, those ideas could never have been realized. You can find out more about megaCar's partners at their website.

From the outside the megaCar Audi A8 looks innocent enough. The only hint that something special is inside comes from the three small antennas around the trunk area. All of the gadgetry inside can be, for the most part, retracted or stowed out of site. Get in the back seat and start exploring, however, and you'll find some amazing features. Tucked into the roof of the car, for instance, is a 17.3" flat panel display from SGI. With the touch of a button on the remote you can watch as the screen retracts from the ceiling of the car and locks into place in front of you. On the rear deck is a camera that is mounted to record the images on the display. A fully cordless keyboard sits ready to be utilized. The overall effect is both super high-tech and mindboggling.

MegaCar is a mobile high-tech office. It is equipped with a mobile network connection providing Internet connectivity with twice the speed of an ISDN channel. An online bandwidth of more than 150 kilobits per second via GSM (world record) permits real-time video conferencing (with up to 30 frames per second) at near-TV quality. Computing power is provided by a Pentium III 500 MHz Windows NT server which is housed on a shelf in the trunk. The GSM booster in the trunk provides up to 16 channels of internet connectivity and the connection is guaranteed to be undecipherable to those outside of the car. Each seat has a 100 Mbps Ethernet socket which permits the connection of laptop computers or other computing devices. Multimedia equipment includes: four TV's, VHS video, DVD, BOSE sound system and a firewire connection for digital video cameras.

There were two really monumental tasks associated with integrating all the gear into the car. The first was simply size and design layout. Many of the technical components are normal sized, and yet they have been arranged in the trunk (both under the floor panel and on a shelf below the rear deck) ingeniously. All wires are batched together in a very organized fashion and the installation appears clean and natural. The other challenge was how to cool the electronic equipment. For this task the car has been specially modified so that the climate control system is active in the trunk area. The car uses it's own cooling system to provide ventilation to the trunk.

Most of the gadgetry inside the car has been worked in to the area in the middle of the rear seats. To make working or writing easier there are trays that fold out of the rear of the front seats (just like on an airplane). There are also controls on the backs of the front seats for the seats' own power system; a passenger in the back would be able to move the front passenger's seat forward if it were in the way. MegaCar has also figured out how to include a small refrigerated compartment that can be accessed by the rear passengers. This cooler is between the two back seats (there is a picture of this area below).

The megaCar is clearly for bleeding edge users and only an elite few will be able to afford it. But for the executive requiring a wired environment no matter where he or she is at, this is a well-crafted option. Although many electronic items have been integrated into the car, these additions do not detract from the overall comfort of the A8 itself. It is, in my opinion, an amazing setup.

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