Audi turns to Nvidia for 3D navigation

Audi announces several improvements to its infotainment system, including 3D maps.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
2 min read

Audi navigation system
Audi's new navigation system includes 3D-textured buildings. Audi

Audi's new Q5 sports navigation graphics empowered by chip-maker Nvidia, along with a radically updated dashboard interface, which Audi calls the Multimedia Interface, or MMI. Integrated into the new navigation system is an automotive-grade Nvidia graphics processing chip, which allows the Q5 to display 3D renderings of urban centers on its navigation system. Along with outlined buildings, some landmark buildings in major urban areas will be rendered with textures, making them easier for drivers to recognize from screen to real world. Audi is also including 3D topographics maps, so you can get an idea of what the terrain ahead looks like. Traffic conditions will also be displayed on the navigation system. In the Q5, the maps are shown on a 7-inch screen with LED backlighting.

Audi MMI knob
The MMI knob adds a joystick to its top. Audi

Beyond the graphics upgrade, Audi is going to a hard drive-based navigation system, which allows more detailed maps and faster rendering than a DVD-based system. The car's 40 gigabyte hard drive will keep 10 gigabytes reserved for music, so CDs can be ripped to the car; this feature is becoming increasingly common with a new generation of automotive infotainment packages.

Audi is also boasting new speech-to-text technology, which will not only let you enter addresses into the navigation system by saying full city and street names, but will also process the phone book of a paired Bluetooth phone. With this system, you will be able to say the name of anyone in your phone book, and have the car make the call. This feature is similar to that in Ford's Sync system and the 2010 Lexus RX 450h. Further, Audi has also upgraded the MMI hardware, adding a joystick onto the top of the console dial. The joystick is a welcome addition, as maneuvering around the navigation system's map used to involve using the dial to move the cursor along an X and Y axis, kind of like an Etch A Sketch.

These updates are definitely due, as Audi's cabin tech had fallen behind even nonluxury brands, such as Ford and Dodge.

Audi topogrpahical map
Topographical maps will also show in the navigation system. Audi