Audis will have computer-style dashboards and be able to download iPhone-style software applications before the end of the decade, according to the firm’s sales and marketing boss, Peter Schwarzenbauer.

Schwarzenbauer also raised the possibility that owners will be able to “download heated seats” as part of plans to allow buyers to upgrade the specification of their car once it has left the factory.

A number of Audi models will get in-car wireless internet access from this year, as the company’s cars start to become ‘learning machines’ that are able to make greater use of live information and predictive behaviour.

Schwarzenbauer suggested to Autocar that in the near future his company’s vehicles will ‘remember’ that a driver makes particular journeys on certain days, automatically selecting the correct sat-nav guidance and even making pre-emptive checks on traffic information before the driver has started the journey.

Any move to downloadable software packages would be accompanied by a completely new concept in dashboard and switchgear design.

Schwarzenbauer’s suggestion that owners could “download heated seats” means that the hardware (such as the heating elements) would have to be pre-installed at the factory and would be only be ‘made live’ by downloading a paid-for software package to the car.

The newly activated heated seats would then be controlled by multi-function, touch-sensitive switchgear similar to the touch pad introduced on the new A8. Other downloadable software packages could include a wide range of sat-nav packages, electronic chassis controls and hi-fi upgrades.

Pre-installing hardware at the factory would also help Audi’s production system become more flexible. Currently the company takes 12 weeks to build a car to order. In future the factory could make stock cars that have their exact specifications tweaked via software downloads by the dealer at the point of sale.

Hilton Holloway

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