As you can probably tell, Audi was quite busy at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, revealing not only the 2015 TT’s interior, but also the next-generation MMI infotainment system, laser headlights, and a sweet interior lighting concept.
But wait, there’s more: The automaker also showed off a new in-car tablet called Audi Smart Display, the production-ready supercomputer that’ll power its Piloted Driving semi-autonomous feature, and a nifty traffic-light alert system.
Audi Smart Display
Before you dismiss Audi’s Smart Display as an iPad with an Audi logo, we implore you to take a closer look. For starters, this tablet is quite a bit more substantial than an iPad, with a thick aluminum case and a beefy-feeling glass face. Also, it runs Google’s Android operating system, so an iPad it ain’t. What sets the Smart Display apart from the iPad, or pretty much any other tablet, for that matter, is that it is wholly designed for use in the car. Specifically, it is designed for use in an Audi, as you’d expect.
That chunky construction? It’s to help the tablet meet occupant-impact standards. The rounded edges reduce the chance it’ll impale passengers in a crash, while the Gorilla Glass face was engineered to meet head-impact rules, meaning it won’t shatter and send shards of glass everywhere if you smack it with your face. The display can withstand super-low and super-high temperatures, because Audi assumes users will leave it in the car most of the time, and cars live outside. Inside, the tablet’s Android operating system defaults to a screen that mimics Audi’s MMI infotainment menu; connected as it is to the car via Wi-Fi, the Smart Display can be used to manipulate climate-control, audio, and navigation functions.
This part is particularly slick, because it allows, say, a passenger in the back seat to search for navigation destinations and points of interest, then send those directions to the car’s MMI system so the driver can get directions. (All of this internet-surfing capability comes courtesy of Audi’s on-board 4G LTE data connection, of course.) Other nifty features include the ability to pirate the car’s DVD slot, which traditionally is only useable for movie-watching when the car is stationary. (You can’t watch a movie on a car’s central display and drive at the same time, of course.) Users can access the DVD in that slot and have the movie beamed to the Smart Display over Wi-Fi. Or users can send information the other way, watching movies on the tablet and playing the audio through the car’s speakers.
When you tire of puppeteering the MMI system, you can select the “more” button on the Smart Display’s main menu and call up a regular Android screen with apps and the like. The Smart Display is only a concept at this point, but it sounds like Audi really wants to build it. We’re told the target price is “less than a current rear-seat entertainment system.” That sounds pricey, but Audi’s display does offer unparalleled integration, as well as the ability to be mounted throughout the car—meaning it’ll still offer entertainment-system-like functionality.