Currently reading: Audi: 'The future is apps'
Future models will offer downloads for software, sat-navs and even heated seats
2 mins read
20 May 2010

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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20 May 2010

And how long would it be till someone "hacked" the car and was able to give customers all the features for a fraction of the cost!!??

20 May 2010

Well ahead of its UK launch. I'd say about three days after the first one is pushed into a manufacturers' training facility....


20 May 2010

So I'm left wondering who will pick up the tab for the cost of the pre-installed hardware that Audi refers to? What would be the point in fitting heated seat elements in any car just in the off chance that the purchaser might some day want to pay to activate the use of them - or may simply never want to use them and the elements have been fitted for no real reason. Adding weight and cost to building a car for no definite reason, just "in case" - wow that's really, really clever Audi.

I guess what is really clever is the potential for Audi to squeeze more and more cash out of their customers for items that really ought to be standard equipment in the first place - given the high list prices Audi already asks for it's models. A cynical car brand I'm going off more and more each day...

20 May 2010

[quote R32]So I'm left wondering who will pick up the tab for the cost of the pre-installed hardware that Audi refers to? What would be the point in fitting heated seat elements in any car just in the off chance that the purchaser might some day want to pay to activate the use of them - or may simply never want to use them and the elements have been fitted for no real reason. Adding weight and cost to building a car for no definite reason, just "in case" - wow that's really, really clever Audi.[/quote]

I was thinking the same this as will many others who read this, but it might speed up the average build time on all their cars and save them enough money to make up the difference? I agree with what you say about not enough fitted as standard too.

And if you look at how fast new gadgets get hacked, it won't be long until people are downloading heated seats for their cars from torrent sites etc.

20 May 2010

This report is timely, about hacking into cars and fiddling with the brakes: I'm still bitter about finding out my W126 500SE's ignition amplifier (which contains a 1980s Intel chip) costs £750 new from Mercedes. Autocar, or one of its readers, reported a 300CE convertible stuck in the garage because of an expired £1500 hood controller chip. I was going round proposing all such chips, for new and old cars, be replaced by generic Chinese flash-RAM chips costing a tenner each, with logic downloadable from the web. However I'm not sure I prefer the idea of checking my computer's antivirus setup every day… BTW, I heard from a Citroën specialist the other day that the C6 twin-turbo becomes a much more wonderful car after the manufacturer's ECU upgrades – a dramatically more tractable engine, for example. They come on CD (though there are online networks where people swap them). However, even though it's on the maintenance schedule, official dealers never bother upgrading the software as it takes several hours of hassle to run through all the procedures needed - they even need to plug the car into a backup power as its battery won't keep all systems going for that time. I got my new ignition amplifier for £260 from an independent breaker.

20 May 2010

Indeed R32,

Even better, why don't car makers stop fitting all this pointless junk to cars in the first place, and make cars lighter and cheaper.

Perhaps, considering VAG's indifferent reliability stats, they could then concentrate on the things the car does need and make them properly.

20 May 2010

its the stupidest plan ever.

i would never buy an audi if they did this. i would not tolerate driving around with parts in my car that i know i will never want to activate but i'm paying extra petrol for to carry around wherever i go.

it also hugely worries me about the network of car parts being all "aware" by the computer. They will i guess put in security protection to the electrics to prevent circuit bypassing to hackers activating heated seats for example perhaps with a new manual switch. But alerts will be triggered and it will know seat bypassed and it could restrict engine rpm until it has been taken to an audi dealer to check for foul play etc..

That aspect concerns me because i like pottering about with my car removing lots of parts and refitting/changing etc. if this throws up lots of secret alarms and restrict the engine it would be a nightmare. I can imagine a scary police state future where DIY enthusiasts are afraid to pop the bonnet as it will send an encrypted message wirelessly to the factory that nasty customer hands are messing about and possibly invalidating warranties.

i could go on, what happens when the police use this technology of apps and wireless control to disable our cars when a parking fine is not paid or to install surveillance software covertly..

yours sincerely,

Mr paranoia

20 May 2010

This sounds great on one hand (the apps, not activating heated seats 6 months after delivery), but horrendous on the other. Being able to add in some code to do things with the sound system, sat nav, instruments etc which are being merged into a single system, could mean driving wihtout knowing quite what might happen. An edge case where at night stability control kicks in at the same time the sat nav says turn left, suddently your headlights are off and music is blaring out at high volume - dangerous. So it's a lot of effort to make sure every new app is fully tested with every other on every model with every trim. Perhaps fitting all optional hardware in every car would reduce the testing effort, but still its a lot of work.

@LaurenceP: I take it you have no idea what 'chips' contain. Flash isn't RAM, and they're very different from a processor. Even if you could download 'logic', magically compile it for your 'chip', how do you update it? And embedded real-time devices don't typically run virus friendly OSes.

20 May 2010

I can see it being slightly less insane if it was like a plane with the dash split into several screens, so you could download an app to make one into a live weather guide, or a night vision radar, or a thing to alert you to all gorgeous females in nearby cars etc. But to fit all equipment to all cars and just allow it to be enabled by downloading is the mark of an imbecile.

I would bet money they would lock it upon second hand sale of the car, so the second owner of each vehicle would have to buy them all over again.

iphone style apps in cars is a muppet sales bod seeing something in a completely different market making shedloads without analysing why, and thinking wow we could somehow possibly err sort of do that in cars. Somehow. But not really thought about it more than that.

Audi's that can download apps is even more of a daft idea than Apple fitting 20" alloys to iphones. Lots of people like and buy Guinness, why not start making Audi's that run on Guinness.

You can just picture imbeciles like this in the sales and marketing boardroom trying to think of great new ideas. "well its good to be green and sustainable, and people love trees, so, why not make cars, out of wood....."

20 May 2010

[quote Autocar]possibility that owners will be able to “download heated seats”[/quote] I get that downloadable software will become commonplace in the next 10-20 years... but it's a good job it'll take a while, because I'm currently under the illusion that it's the hardware, software and fitting that I'm paying a premium for. It'll take some time to alter my mindset on that one. Nevertheless, I suppose having a vehicle capable of such simple upgrades is a great idea - it could reduce overall cost of options. Maybe it could even throw open the opportunity of 'renting' things like heated seats for winter. Let's see how this pans out. One for Tomorrow's World to look into!


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