April 25, 2002

Audi to simplify instrument panel controls

Auburn Hills, Michigan – Audi plans to introduce new, simplified instrument panel controls that combine a car’s multiple electronic devices and their different operations. Called Multi Media Interface (MMI), the new control panel has fewer buttons, dual monitors, a large rotary switch and push-button controls. Remote thumb-wheel controls on the steering wheel, together with a secondary display located within the driver’s line of sight in the instrument cluster, provide access to “the basics” of the system without drivers having to take their hands off the wheel or their eyes off the road.

The MMI main control is ergonomically located in the centre console, behind the shifter and just forward of the armrest. With a push button/rotating knob in the centre of two concentric rectangles, eight buttons at the corners of the outer rectangle access electronics for Entertainment, Communication, Information, and Control. Each of these themed buttons is divided into two sub-themes.

The two upper right buttons afford access to all audio/visual sources; click the top button up for direct access to all of the controls for the audio components, click the bottom button to access CD or DVD. The two lower left buttons form the Communication key groups for all Internet and telephone functions; the two upper right keys pair navigation and information on traffic, which will be used in the future. The two lower left buttons access vehicle operation commands and setup menus.

Once a main theme key has been selected, the four most important subsidiary functions of that theme are accessed via four “soft keys” at the corners of the inner rectangle. From there, a driver can simply dial or push the central rotating knob to attain the desired effect or, alternatively, access the subset of information/operation via two steering wheel-mounted thumb wheels, allowing for maximum two-handed driving control.

Audi says its MMI operation is more intuitive than similar systems in the automotive industry. The menu structure is logical and uncomplicated, with commonly used functions high up in the menu hierarchy and less common commands located in deeper sub-menus.

MMI utilizes two monitor screens, both positioned in the driver’s primary field of view to help the driver stay focused on the road ahead. The main seven-inch monitor is located high in the centre of the dashboard area. This large screen provides a real-time display of driver inputs at the central control module, with colour-coding to help the user “feel” his or her way through an operation. The liquid crystal display folds flat when not needed.

A second, three-inch monitor is positioned directly ahead of the driver in the centre of the instrument cluster. This fundamental display shows only the information that is relevant to the driver, such as onboard computer calculations, navigation instructions or audio system information. Because the instrument-cluster MMI screen follows the same design principle as the centre-stack MMI monitor, the driver need not make mental adjustments when switching his or her gaze from one to the other.

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