Cutting edge cars these days are loaded with technology and features, and with every generation, the capabilities of in-car entertainment and information increase incrementally. Managing these functions, while ensuring they impede the driving task as little as possible is a challenge every company faces, and some are rising to the occasion.

Audi’s latest advancement is bundled under the company’s new Virtual Cockpit, moving the primary interface into and combining it with a fully digital gauge cluster. Now, we’ve seen fully digital gauges before in the Cadillac XTS, Jaguar XJ and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but this is Audi’s evolution of the HMI and gauges in one high-powered data portal. Another brand worth noting is BMW, whose head-up display incorporates information such as speed (and a tach in sport modes), as well as radio station or media selections and navigation route guidance prompts, matching high-end Audi products.

To completely simplify Audi’s virtual cockpit, let’s break it down into the two main aspects of any human machine interface (HMI): input and display. Of course, the display being the chief innovation and differentiator from other systems, not to mention that it’s dead sexy, so let’s start there. Andy might correct me, but to me it sounds like a video game display: 12.3-inch, 1,440 x 540 pixel high-res screen, Nvidia Tegra 30 chip (Audi is the first carmaker worldwide to use such a high-speed graphics processor).

I’m going to just throw this out here even though I hardly understand what they’re talking about: “With a clock speed of over one gigahertz, the four-core chip can work together with a special 3D graphics program to perform more than eight billion computing operations per second.” So, it’s, like, fast or something. Slightly more comprehensible is the 60 frames per second. Movie and television industry standard has long been 24 frames per second. Audi claims it “produces tack sharp, brilliant and high-contrast images.” Hard to argue with that. The definition is crisp and the response is immediate. Audi even designed in some reflective effects to make it seem more ‘realistic’ and colour-coding for the different menus.

2016 Audi TTS virtual cockpit media information2016 Audi TTS virtual cockpit full navigation2016 Audi TTS virtual cockpit
2016 Audi TTS Virtual Cockpit media display, full navigation, large tachometer. Click image to enlarge

It has to be, since this screen isn’t just for flipping through radio stations or plugging in a destination, it incorporates the driving gauges, including the speedometer, tachometer and trip info, etc. Fuel and coolant temp are separate from the screen in minute digital gauges below the tach and speedo. The two primary configurations for the screen are large, circular gauges with a small info area between, or smaller circular gauges on the lower left and right with a huge sweeping area for map, music or telephone info display.

The image from the back-up camera appears in the central area, while proximity diagrams appear on the left, and a variety of trip information can also be called up. Unfortunately, Google Earth map views will not be available in North America.

Connect with