Audi's 3G MMI and Google Earth integration
Audi's Multi Media Interface, or MMI
, may not have been all things to all people when it launched, but Audi has been continually improving the service over the years since its launch in 2004 to turn it into the defacto way to get your media in your Quattro. It's getting better still, with the third generation and fourth generation MMI implementations getting a boost courtesy of NVIDIA Tegra
graphics, the latter adding Google Earth integration to the mix.
Naturally Audi and NVIDIA are tauting both systems' ability to enable a rich user experience while also minimizing driver distractions, which is cool, but we were more interested in how the thing performed. For the 3G MMI the experience was buttery smooth, either when scrolling around the Strip from above courtesy of the tiny joystick that's been added, or zooming all the way out until this entire great nation was visible. The default view is an isometric perspective that, up-close, includes 3D representations of buildings. Back it up a bit and the buildings go flat while the terrain starts to stand out, colored nicely such that when we were all the way back things still looked good.
The 2011 A8 will get the 4G MMI, ditching the fiddly joystick and replacing it with a small touchpad. You can use this to enter in numbers, scroll across maps, and even write letters using character recognition. The rest of the physical interface is much the same, with the major change being Google Earth integration, providing satellite view and a much nicer looking interface. The system pulls data through an integrated modem, either using a SIM card inserted into the dash or by cloning the owners' phone -- or at least it will in the European market. Exactly what Audi will do in the US remains to be seen, but the hope is to do something similarly straightforward and to avoid additional monthly fees.
It also remains to be seen when vehicles beyond the flagship A8 will get Google Earth.