Audi Makes Car Infotainment Upgradeable Thanks to Tablets

One of the problems with in-car infotainment systems is that even if they become upgradeable via software, the hardware is still stuck with the same internal components as the day you bought the car. Given that most people keep their cars on average of about a decade, this is like owning a smartphone for ten years and getting software updates along the way. Eventually, the software will become too heavy for the hardware to handle and you’ll end up with a 10-year phone trying to chug along and power the latest software.

Image via USA Today

Image via USA Today

Fortunately, for Audi, a more modular concept may make it easier to keep both hardware and software updated for the rear seat infotainment center. Rather than designing a built-in system, Audi has teamed up with NVIDIA to build a tablet that snaps into Audi vehicles to allow consumers and passengers to have access to the latest infotainment experience. And when the hardware gets too old, hopefully you can swap it out for a newer experience with newer hardware.

Audi also launched a new category of mobile device, known as a Smart Display. This multimedia computer powered by a Tegra 4 processor is designed for rear-seat use, yet seamlessly integrates with the car’s audio and video systems. It has been hardened to withstand a wide range of operational conditions, from -40 degrees Celsius to 80 degrees Celsius, and to withstand the shocks and vibrations that driving conditions can present.

The tablet would give you access to all the controls that you would have with a touchscreen infotainment system today when docked inside the Audi while also providing customers with additional content through Google’s ecosystem when users need more.

Dubbed the Audi Smart Display, the device is a 10.2-inch Android tablet with an aluminum shell that is designed for the car. As such, it could survive a bit more temperature extremes than traditional consumer-grade tablets that we are more familiar with.

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Audi is a member of Google’s Open Automotive Alliance, so this is a natural extension of that partnership, and hopefully the automaker will bring AT&T’s LTE connectivity to more vehicles to keep drivers connected to the Internet.

The whole experience is powered by NVIDIA’s Tegra 4 processor today.

In the past, I had advocated that smartphone-maker BlackBerry to build a modular in-car experience of its PlayBook tablet. This would be a great experience as consumers can carry the tablet with them and maintain productivity when they leave their car. As both the PlayBook and many in-car systems are powered by BlackBerry’s QNX OS, this would be a natural extension.

And as history tells us, BlackBerry never was able to achieve this. Now, through Google, it looks like Audi’s release is perhaps closest to match that idea, though the Smart Display from Audi is utilized more for the passengers than the driver.

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