New Audi BEV Crossover Flexes its AR Tech

As with most recent BEV launches, the new Audi Q4 e-tron has little of interest about its powertrain – its headline story is all in-cabin technology.

Heading up that technology is its augmented reality software suite that runs the heads-up display with a picture generation unit (PGU). A particularly bright LCD directs the light beams it generates onto two level mirrors and optical components separate the portions for the near-field and distant areas. The level mirrors direct the beams onto a large concave mirror that can be adjusted electrically. From there, they reach the windscreen, which reflects them into what is called the eyebox and then into the driver’s eyes. Audi claims that at an apparent distance of ten yards, or even further away depending on the situation, the driver sees the symbols just as clearly as their real-life environment.

This enables a predictive picture generator employing an ‘AR Creator’. This serves as the mastermind and picture generator on the software side. It is a processing unit in the modular infotainment platform (MIB 3) that is comprised of multiple individual modules. The AR Creator renders the display symbols at a rate of 60 frames per second and adapts them to the geometry of the projection optics. At the same time, it calculates their location in relation to the environment, on which it obtains information via the raw data of the front camera, the radar sensor and the GPS navigation. Its software consists of about 600,000 lines of programing code, around 50% more than the entire control system of the first version of the Space Shuttle.

While performing its computing work, the AR Creator takes into account a few fractions of a second between the identification of an object by the sensors and the output of the graphic content. During these brief time windows, the Q4 e-tron claims to be able to change its position, whether braking or avoiding a pothole.

Drone navigation

On the road, the floating arrow, or drone, shows the next point of action on the route. When approaching an intersection, for example, it first announces the turning maneuver before an animated arrow steers the driver onto the road. If the route then continues straight ahead, the drone flies ahead and disappears in order to then reappear with sufficient time before the next point of action. The distance to the turning point is displayed in meter in the lower window of the near-field area.

If adaptive cruise assist is deployed, the display assists with visual hints. As soon as the car approaches a lane marking without the turn signal having been activated, the lane departure warning superimposes a red line on the real-life lane marking. Another example is in relation to a vehicle driving in front. If it is active, the car is marked on the display with a colored stripe – this allows the driver to understand the status of the adaptive cruise assist or adaptive cruise control without being distracted. A red marking and a warning symbol appear if the adaptive cruise assist prompts the driver to verify that they are paying attention.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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