Carmakers must press the pedal-to-the-metal to get up to IoT speed


Technology may be moving forward at a lightening pace but the car it wants to be heading into has the agility, by comparison, of a juggernaut’s turning circle. This may be an obvious fact considering that it still takes around three years for a mass produced vehicle to leave the drawing board and roll into the showrooms.

Yet, it is this disjoint that could be the greatest challenge to carmakers’ ambitions to compete against mobile devices in providing lifestyle solutions to an ever increasingly demanding audience.

I recently had the pleasure of driving the latest Audi A7 S-Line 3.0 TDI ultra from London to the wine slopes of the Mosel in the Rheinland-Pfalz area of Germany just north of Trier.

Almost immediately the long coupe-like doors are opened, the experience is one of sheer luxury. Top quality leather upholstery and ergonomic understated design of the cockpit lends an enormous sense of control and well-being.

To be fair, the bubble of self-satisfaction was also magnified by the luxurious surroundings of P&O Ferries’ Club Lounge where the quiet elegance and free newspapers and soft drinks have become a must-do part of any trip I make to the Continent.

The car’s ADAS systems also compound the air of automotive superiority with its excellent radar adaptive cruise control taking the stress out of long high-speed journeys especially on the sensibly de-restricted autobahns that allow the car to challenge any other form of transport in terms of cost versus miles covered.

Ah, the discipline of German autobahns which can often allow long distance journeys averaging 120mph and more and where everyone pulls over to the driving lane no matter how fast they are travelling, mean even discount airlines struggle to compete against a car with four passengers in the lap of luxury on a ‘short-hop’.

Here’s where the A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI ultra excels, providing rock solid high-speed stability, even without the slightly comical electrically operated rear wing. Bags of performance from the V6 218PS motor, delivers a 0-62mph sprint in just 7.3secs while returning around 50mpg in real-world driving.

And yet, here we come to the rub. The sheer triumph of engineering and build quality that the German manufacturer can lay claim to, only highlights the flaws in its newest technology for internet connectivity.

Despite spending some hours reading manuals, both in the car and online, over the course of the ten-day trip I failed miserably to make the system fully functional. The initial attempt to insert my iPhone SIM into the dashboard’s slot was a harbinger of the techno grief to come. Only ‘standard’ sized SIMs fit in the required slot and Audi did not provide, what I would have imagined would have been, a beautifully engineered converter for the iPhone’s nano SIM. Instead a trip to Vodafone’s store in Trier furnished a converter but one that was poorly made and fiddly to use.

However, perseverance and a little plastic remodelling eventually worked and the SIM was recognised by the MMI infotainment system. This kicked up such features as the superb Google Earth satellite map views, local weather, newsfeeds, social media outlets and even city events in the locality.

It did not, sadly, activate the myAudi personal connectivity package through the Audi Connect menu. Back to the manuals, one pdf a full 18-pages long, I began the process of delving further into how to make the system work. Despite not being the official owner of the vehicle, I could create my own account online for myAudi and was cheered by the suite of features available.

These included:

  • Online traffic reports;
  • myAudi special destinations;
  • Picture book navigation using phone snaps’ GPS settings;
  • Destination input through Google Maps;
  • Train and flights information;
  • Messaging through voice recognition;
  • Map update.

This last feature, immediately appeared a bit ‘retro’ because updating the car’s maps could only be achieved by employing an SD card to download from your computer and then to have it inserted into one of two SD ports on the dash.

Nonetheless, reinvigorated and excited at the prospect of sampling all the new features, I returned my SIM to the car expecting an automatic sign-up now I had given the system myAudi username and password from the website.

Except, all I was now faced with was a screen demanding a PIN number. According to the car’s quick-start guide for the MMI system, this should have been automatically generated by the car – it was not.

By this time, as one of the Baby Boomers at which this car is targeted and the generation funding the drive for more connectivity, I was now metaphorically pulling out what little hair I’ve left in sheer frustration.

There was something of déjà vu in the experience being not that dissimilar to the manuals read and ASCII code written to create and format 3-inch floppy discs for the old Amstrad PCW 8512 I had back in the late 1980s.

So what was the problem? After a week of investigation the experts at Audi UK reported that I had missed a tiny red wifi button on the My Vehicles section of the website that links the car to the site and generates the PIN number!

Suffice to say that the excellence of the vehicle’s old-school role as superb transport emphasises how far carmakers have yet to go to ensure the technology built into their cars is not three years out of date and functions with the ease and intuitiveness of the average new laptop or mobile phone.

And at the moment, that is still some way off…

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