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Auto Show:  2011 Consumer Electronics Show

The Future According to Audi - 2011 Consumer Electronics Show

January 2011 author photo


January 7, 2011

The thing about Audi products is that they can look good at car shows, but they could also pass muster in an architects’ symposium or at a technology convention like the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. At this year’s geeky gadget-fest, Audi showed us just how compelling the mixture of horsepower and computer processing power can be, setting out its vision for the automotive future.

The company’s ‘Exhibit A’ was a new variation on a now-familiar concept car: an E-tron Spyder. The E-tron is a plug-in hybrid supercar and the Spyder is an open-top version. It can zip from standstill to 60 mph in around 4.5 seconds. “We’re redefining what it means to be a really fast computer,” said Audi chairman Rupert Stadler.

What he meant by that was the amount of mobile technology set to feature in Audi’s output. The second car to grace the stage was the 2011 Audi A8, described by Stadler as “the most technologically advanced vehicle you can buy.” He mentioned the A8’s special touchpad that can recognize handwriting, even Chinese characters. “We believe we have invented the most intuitive interface out there,” said Stadler.

Then he turned what a lot of other companies are doing on its head.

“Bolting on existing technologies is not the answer. Devices (like smartphones) are designed to catch a user’s attention. For driving, we need the opposite.” So, strange as it may seem, Audi’s engineers and tech partners are working hard to make things we can immediately take for granted.

“The more realistic things are, the less distracting they become,” said Stadler. Things like 3D graphics for the navigation function is one example (Google Earth is already available). But the next generation of Audi cars may also have something called a ’digital cockpit’ where the gauges and other informational read-outs are all virtual, but look extremely convincing. A laser-projected head-up display will show (among other things) direction arrows for navigation that look as if they are on the actual road.

This is all achieved with a new processor that is no bigger than a dime (keeping weight down, thereby helping fuel efficiency is another vital element of driving in the future), but when this chip goes into the next wave of smart phones, they will become known as ‘super phones.’ Acknowledging the heady rate at which technology develops compared with the normal life cycle of a car, Stadler said that models will change more frequently in an effort to keep up.

“We see a world where a car is fully connected... to the internet, to other cars, the cloud (a popular computerese buzzword at the moment -- basically, a remote server that smaller devices can link to via the internet, wi-fi and/or a cellular signal), and weather and traffic updates,” said Stadler. And if it looks as good as the E-tron Spyder or A8, who could complain about that kind of future?

author photoCOLIN RYAN has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
The Future According to Audi - 2011 Consumer Electronics Show - Autotrader