Saturday, January 08, 2011

New Technologies in the Audi A8 and Audi A8 L

New Technologies in the Audi A8 and Audi A8 L

The Audi A8 and the long-wheelbase A8 L are the brand’s flagship models – equally in terms of electronic intelligence. Its LED headlights, MMI navigation plus infotainment system with MMI touch, internet connection and assistance systems to name but a few features place Audi’s luxury sedan right at the front of the field of competitors. Its innovative technologies have also been transferred to the A7 Sportback and the new A6.

2011 Audi A8
2011 Audi A8
The LED headlights and LED rear lights
The LED headlights are an area of technology in which Audi is well ahead of the competition. They first appeared in 2008 on the R8 high-performance sports car; since then the brand has repeatedly built on its lead.

The LED headlights give the Audi A8 and A8 L a characteristic look both in daylight and after dark. The light-emitting diodes are maintenance-free and extremely durable. And they consume very little energy – the low beams, for example, consume only around 40 watts per unit, rather less than the already highly efficient xenon plus headlights. With a color temperature of 5,500 Kelvin, the light from LEDs resembles daylight and is much less tiring for the eyes.

This innovative technology has engendered a radically new departure in design. On the Audi A8 and A8 L the low beams comprise ten individual lens modules extending through the headlight in a distinctive arc below the chrome contour known as the wing, on account of its shape. Below this is another arc of 22 white and 22 yellow LEDs for the daytime running lights and the turn signals. Their thick wall technology makes them appear from the outside as homogenous, continuous strips of light.

The main-beam headlights are located above the wing. Their light is generated by two powerful four-chip LEDs and a free-form reflection system; an assistance function switches between the low and main beams. Additional high-output LEDs generate the highway light and the cornering light. Fans and heat sinks moderate the temperature of each headlight unit.

To complement the LED headlights, the A8 and A8 L also feature rear lights using a similar technology. Apart from the reversing light, they consist entirely of light-emitting diodes; there are 72 LEDs in each unit. The tail lights, which consume only 9 watts per unit, form a trapezoidal contour that appears as an even, homogenous strip. Its upper segment consists of a light guide, a transparent plastic tube; a reflective free-form area makes up the lower section.

The five-segment brake light is located inside the trapezoid. When the sedan decelerates sharply, the brake light flashes quickly to warn the traffic behind it, and the hazard warning lights are activated when it has come to a stop. The brake light responds without delay and therefore two-tenths of a second faster than a conventional incandescent bulb – a safety gain for vehicles following on behind.

The assistance systems
Audi offers an extensive range of cutting-edge assistance and safety systems in the A8 and A8 L. They are closely integrated both with each other and with other systems, elevating the luxury sedan to a new level of intelligence.

The Audi pre sense safety system is available in a variety of versions. In many situations it is capable of taking the sting out of accidents and their consequences or even preventing them altogether by warning the driver and braking the sedan with escalating intensity in an emergency. Meanwhile the system closes the windows and sunroof, tautens the belts, activates the hazard warning flashers and selects firmer shock absorber settings for the optional adaptive air suspension.

Audi pre sense front operates closely with adaptive cruise control with stop & go function. The radar-based cruise control system accelerates the car and slows it down within certain limitations. It uses the signals from two radar sensors, a video camera and the ultrasonic sensors, incorporates navigation data and analyzes a multitude of additional information. The operating range of ACC stop & go, the response of which can be finely tuned by the driver, ranges from rolling along in urban traffic right up to top speed.

From a speed of 30 km/h (18.64 mph) Audi side assist monitors the area behind the A8 and A8 L by radar to support safe lane-changing. The speed limit display identifies speed limits and flashes them up in the display for the driver information system. In the A7 Sportback and A6, they also appear in the head-up display. The night vision assistant operates by means of a thermal imaging camera. Its monochrome images are presented on the DIS display, highlighting pedestrians identified in front of the vehicle. If it interprets a situation as potentially hazardous, it shows the person in red.

There are two other systems to choose from in the A7 Sportback and the new A6. Audi active lane assist helps the driver to stay in lane at speeds of above 60 km/h (37.28 mph). A camera identifies the lane markings on the road surface; if the car starts to approach one of them, the system gently corrects the steering.

The parking system, also new, reduces the driver’s workload when parallel parking in reverse or parking at right-angles to the road. It identifies suitable spaces either parallel to or at right-angles to the road. The system guides the car automatically into and out of parking spaces – in several maneuvers if necessary.

The assistance and safety systems mesh very closely with MMI navigation plus. The route data from the latter is a useful resource for the control units of the headlights, automatic transmission and ACC stop & go. It enables these systems to recognize complex scenarios and predictively support the driver. The tiptronic, for instance, knows not to shift up unnecessarily just before a bend and the highway light is activated as soon as a car enters the ramp to a highway.

The MMI navigation plus infotainment system

The Multi Media Interface (MMI) from Audi made its debut in 2002 and has since become established as the leading user interface on the market. The A8 and A8 L now feature a new generation of this system. The MMI is standard equipment here, but customers can enhance it with various optional modules. At the top of the range is MMI navigation plus.

This system comprises two blocks. The radio unit combines the functions of tuner and sound system. The main unit integrates other important modules, including a DVD drive, two card readers and a 60 GB hard drive with the navigation data. One-third of its capacity is set aside as memory for phone and music data, and it holds around 3,000 files.

The MMI navigation plus system includes two readers for SDHC cards, a SIM card reader, a Bluetooth interface for phone and media player and a triple radio tuner. It also incorporates equipment specific to certain national markets such as the United States, satellite radio and traffic flow information including Sirius speed and flow data. It can also be upgraded with components such as a six-disc changer for CDs and DVDs. Other options available from Audi include a highly advanced Rear Seat Entertainment system and the excellent Advanced Sound System from Bang & Olufsen.

The Nvidia graphics processor represents the redesigned graphic MMI user interface of top quality and performance standards. The high-caliber graphics and fluid animations shown on the central MMI display and on the driver information system screen in the instrument cluster look tangible and elegant; they vividly visualize the menu hierarchy and make the system a pleasure to operate. The selection menus, or wizards, with their ellipsoidal icons look particularly sophisticated and can be used intuitively. The screens have a high resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. Cutting-edge display technologies with LED backlighting produce razor-sharp images and lush colors even in very difficult light conditions.

For navigation, a highly detailed three-dimensional terrain model serves as the map; this allows points of interest to be represented with meticulous detail. For route guidance, as well as the classic arrow look there is the choice of an animated view with precise notes on junctions and lane changes.

Internet connection
Audi has also carved out a significant lead over its competitors by providing unrestricted, fast internet access. Passengers in the A8 and A8 L can surf and email to their heart’s content while on the road, and the driver can use a large number of online services safely while driving, such as those provided by the venture partner Google.

The new technologies are present in concentrated form in the optional Bluetooth car phone online. Its centerpiece is a UMTS module housed in the head unit of the MMI navigation plus. A roof aerial for communication assures a stable connection. The modulation method of High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) achieves a very fast UMTS data transfer speed of up to 7.2 MB per second; encryption using the WPA2 standard guarantees high security. In areas with poor UMTS coverage, the UMTS module switches over to EDGE connectivity technology, which uses the GSM network.

The Bluetooth car phone online incorporates a WLAN hotspot. The passengers can use it to connect as many as eight terminal devices to the internet simultaneously, from laptop to iPad, whatever their operating system.

Only a data-enabled SIM card is needed to go online; the card reader is located in the trim panel of the MMI navigation plus. Alternatively the mobile phone can be paired with the system by Bluetooth if it has the SIM Access Profile. No supplementary charges or separate contracts are involved.

The new technology offers a wide range of convenient services. Drivers can plan their travel routes down to the last detail on their computer at home or in the office, upload them to a section of the website and download them from there to the navigation system before starting the trip.

The luxury sedan also uses the fast connection to load three-dimensional satellite and aerial pictures from Google Earth – another Audi innovation. High-resolution 3D satellite pictures, extensive supplementary information such as photos and information from the web community are just a few of the new, fascinating features.

The Bluetooth car phone online also provides a supply of news, business, weather and travel information that has been optimized specifically for in-car applications. A new feature for the U.S. market is up-to-date information on fuel prices and filling stations.

There is an online search function via Google to find points of interest. The results – with additional information on every destination – are displayed in a results list or alternatively on the map. They can be adopted as navigation destinations at a click; the driver can set up a phone call to the destination with equal ease.

Voice-controlled online destination searches are the latest development in internet connectivity. For this function, the voice control system on board the vehicle operates in conjunction with a counterpart system on Google servers. This makes it even easier and more convenient to search for destinations and reduces distraction from the traffic situation.

MMI touch
The MMI navigation plus system in the A8 and A8 L incorporates another trailblazing innovation from Audi: MMI touch. It is operated in an entirely new way – via a touchpad with integral handwriting recognition.

To search the address book or enter a destination or phone number, the driver writes the letters or digits with their finger on the touch-sensitive control panel; they can also navigate with the map in the same way. This input technique works intuitively and requires almost no familiarization. The right hand rests comfortably on the selector lever of the eight-speed tiptronic. The finger writes the letters and digits almost effortlessly. The system provides acoustic confirmation of each character as it is recognized by speaking it, allowing the driver to keep their eyes on the road.

If the user makes a mistake, a simple swipe from right to left is all that it takes to delete it. In contrast to voice control, touchpad input is possible even while listening to an audio source or speaking to the passengers.

The new technology of MMI touch is based on a network that has been fed with millions of character samples from all around the world. The system is therefore suitable for use on an international scale – it also recognizes characters from many Asian languages. Depending on the MMI operating level, the touchpad is moreover transformed into an operating panel on which six freely programmable radio stations are stored.

The touchpad comprises the sensor module and the computer housed beneath it. The sensor module constitutes the touch-sensitive film incorporating numerous conductor tracks, and the top; white high-performance LEDs illuminate it from below. Special illumination makes the top highly durable; its sophisticated look is preserved even after several hundred thousand inputs.

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