Cars that talk to each other and react to potential dangers on the road ahead is a future feature Audi is touting for a new web-based connectivity system it has launched in Australia.
For now though Audi connect plus can warn you about traffic jams, find parking spaces and locate cheap petrol.
But experimental versions of the system use what’s called swarm technology to collate information from many vehicles about road quality and then warn following cars to anticipate and adjust for obstructions, smoothing the ride and potentially avoiding crashes.
Audi’s predictive system is under development in Germany, but it will be some years before it is seen in Australia.
“Predictive suspension is linked to Audi connect plus,” confirmed Audi Australia product manager Matthew Dale.
“It is an air suspension system … so it can lift if there is an imminent collision, for example. But it can also use those same sensors to sense potholes or if there is something on the road it needs to warn other motorists about.”
The same timeframe applies to a traffic light information system that uses vehicle-to-infrastructure communication to inform drivers of the optimum speed to travel for a series of green lights.
“Audi is working on these projects on a global level and we are putting our hand up for that future technology and implementation in Australia,” Mr Dale said.
“What that road map looks like we can’t confirm at this stage, but we are actively pushing for this. This is the future of the connected car.”
Ultimately, Audi connect plus will help pave the way for autonomous vehicles, although widespread ‘level five’ hands-free driving remains many years from introduction in Australia.
Instead, for now, the focus of Audi’s new infotainment system is to offer smartphone-rivalling interactivity.
Arch rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz are striving for the same thing with their freshly-updated systems.
“It’s really important for us to evolve with this digital era we are in, because customers are going to be expecting this sort of tech in their cars,” Audi Australia managing director Paul Sansom said.
“They are expecting a seamless transition from what they can do on their smartphones into the car.”
Audi claims exclusive features of its system include the ability to list vacant spaces at many car parks, instant pricing of fuel at service stations and providing Google Map overlays of its sat-nav display.
The system can issue live warnings of traffic snarls, bad weather ahead on a driving route and alert emergency services independently if sensors detect a major accident.
The owner can also be remotely notified via a smartphone app if the car is speeding, or has been driven beyond a preset boundary, or geofence. Handy if you’ve loaned your Audi to one of the kids …
All up, Audi connect plus is claimed to offer 15-plus safety, security and convenience features, whereas its predecessor, Audi connect, had three features.
This expansion is made possible because Audis are being rolled out with an updated operating system and embedded sim that connects the car directly to the Telstra cellular phone system rather than via a plug-in sim.
Audi is offering the system’s data services free to new car buyers for three years and it will then cost about $100 per year in data charges, the company estimates.
Safety and security features are covered for 10 years.
It will continue to offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring in its cars, but it won’t charge a fee to have CarPlay enabled as BMW often does.
Audi connect plus has been quietly rolled out in vehicle updates since April, but the A6 sedan that launches in August is the first all-new model to gain the system.
It comes in combination with a new touch screen system mounted in the dashboard that replaces Audi’s previous combination of a single screen, dials and buttons.