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Audi shows integrated Android tablet to CES 2014 crowd

Audi announced a new Android-based tablet at CES 2014 that will let passengers control car infotainment functions.

Audi Smart Display
Wayne Cunningham/CNET
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LAS VEGAS -- On the heels of the Open Auto Alliance announcement at CES 2014, Audi showed off its first use of Google's Android OS, the Audi Smart Display, a tablet integrated with Audi's in-vehicle infotainment system.

The tablet runs Android and uses an Nvidia Tegra 40 chip designed for automotive applications. The aluminum case and 10-inch screen are designed for use and storage in the car.

This tablet provides a clue as to how Audi's participation in the Open Auto Alliance will help it integrate Android devices.

Passengers in an Audi vehicle can use the tablet as a remote control for the car's navigation, audio, telephone, and other connected functions. The tablet connects to the car through Wi-Fi, and shows a menu of functions similar to what the driver can pull up on the instrument cluster or dashboard-mounted LCD.

Audi Smart Display
Audi has a live demonstration of the Smart Display at its CES booth. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

The driver can let passengers play DJ or find destinations, without them putting their hands on any controls in the cockpit. In a demonstration at CES 2014, an Audi staffer used the tablet to pull up a list of destinations, then dragged the desired destination over to the map, where it was automatically programmed in for route guidance.

At the same time, a mock-up of the driver cockpit showed the new destination being added to navigation.

The tablet can show actual navigation process, along with vehicle-specific running information, such as speed, derived from the car's CAN Bus.

The tablet also works like any Android device, using the car's 4G/LTE hotspot to access the Internet. Used as such, passengers can download and use any of the apps available in the Google Play store.

Audi Smart Display
Audi showed this image of the Smart Display during its press conference. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Audi did not provide details as to availability or cost, but the demonstration worked seamlessly. The tablet will likely coincide with the new TT model, which does away with a central LCD in favor of a virtual instrument cluster showing gauges and infotainment functions. The TT cockpit does not allow for a passenger to control infotainment functions, making the tablet a perfect adjunct.

Audi has also said that its participation in the Open Auto Alliance will let it integrate Android devices into its vehicles, similar to how iOS devices are currently integrated for music playback and calendar functions. This tablet integration suggests that an app replicating its functions on any Android device would be possible.