January 7, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Sneak Peak: Audi’s Next-Level Android Tablet for Cars

audi android tablet

Photo: Wayne Cunningham (link below)

On the heels of the launch of the Open Automotive Alliance by Google, four major automakers, and Nvidia comes a sneak peak of the 10-inch Android tablet Audi will include with some of these cars, as well as additional details on how they’ll work.

First, they won’t be embedded in the dashboard; instead, the Audi Smart Display connects to the car via WiFi, so any passenger can use it to control the music, view detailed route statistics, and run apps, some of which might be able to take cues from the car itself to control music and other features. For car features, they access the same interface that the driver sees on the dashboard.

My friend and former CNET colleague Wayne Cunningham posted a great preview of Audi’s Android tablet after attending Audi’s press event at CES. Audi’s presentation shows a 10-inch Android tablet (also appearing in Audi’s booth on the CES show floor) that can install anything from the Google Play app store. It connects to the internet using the car’s own 4G LTE data connection.

This is not your typical Android tablet, though; it runs on the Nvidia Tegra 40 chip, created for automotive applications, which indicates that the tablet could integrate with core car functions in addition to running your music and other apps.

“The tablet can show actual navigation process,” writes car expert Cunningham, “along with vehicle-specific running information, such as speed, derived from the car’s CAN Bus [wikipedia].”

In addition to increasing safety, because any passenger with the tablet can enter a new stop on the map or switch the music to a new artist, album, song, station, or app, rather than shouting instructions to the front seat. It should generally reduce instances of drivers having to deal with that stuff themselves. It should also allow people to use more complicated music apps in the car — after all, there’s a cottage industry in big, chunky interfaces for not crashing your car while switching the music.

But really, we’re most excited about the music apps that might be possible on a tablet that integrates directly with the Internet of Cars, or whatever we’re going to end up calling it — everything from playlists based on where you’re going to music-based feedback that we’re speeding, driving too slow, show tickets based on our itinerary, record shops, local internet radio, specific songs for when we need to change the oil or check the tire pressure, and so on.

If Audi and Google figure out how to let developers access the car’s real-time data in order to hook that into their apps, the possibilities should get even more interesting for car music in 2014.

(Photo: Wayne Cunningham)