Q: Hello CarAdvice. We always read about how you guys travel around the world driving the latest cars and attending conferences. They all seem like fun-filled junkets — what actually happens at these events?
A: Thanks for the email, Trent. We wish they were fun-filled junkets..!
Generally, all trips we take with a manufacturer are supported by that company and we are their guest for the duration of the trip. These events, such as the Audi Tech Day in Munich, Germany, happen over the period of a day.
We will often fly in from Australia the day before, attend the unveiling or the drive the following day, and then fly back to Australia that same day - or first-thing the following day.
These trips are generally done in groups, so our group will include a number of other journalists from Australia and, on occasion, from New Zealand.
The Audi Tech Day was held this year in Munich, Germany, at a purpose-built venue attached to the international airport.
Audi had a number of models on display and several stations with examples of the company's latest modern technology. These include:
This particular station had Audi's MMI Connect telephone application on display for us to test with the new e-tron model in the 2017 Q7 range. The application, in similar fashion to Tesla's offering, allows the user to connect to the car and remotely lock and unlock, or even pre-condition the cabin.
It's an example of how connectivity will make the life of a user easier in the future. It's especially useful in Audi's e-tron vehicles because the user can schedule charges and see how much battery capacity is left into the vehicle.
Virtual Engineering Table:
This clever table includes a number of Audi technologies that are hard to demonstrate outside of the vehicle. These technologies all work to make life easier for the driver and include things like matrix LED headlights, vehicle radar systems and a demonstration of the future of autonomous driving.
Using the touchscreen and model cars, the operator can show how this technology works to prospective buyers. It's especially useful where the features are options on particular vehicles - the buyer can get a better idea of how the technology works and why they are spending their money on it.
A big part of Audi's future is virtual reality. The company plans on rolling out virtual reality stations at all of its dealerships to offer customers a new view on configuration of their new car.
By donning the virtual reality goggles, they will be able to see the car and colour of their choice and then begin adding options to see what the car ends up looking like.
This then further extends to the ability to look through panels and see interstitial layers of the car and what it looks like beneath the skin.
Autonomous Model Cars:
Audi has enlisted university students to help develop and design autonomous vehicles through the world of scaled-down model cars.
The model cars feature the same sensors used on a full-size car and, using these, they can develop algorithms and strategies to manage and deal with the 'real world'.
The cars drive around a purpose built track that includes speed signs, road signs and parking places that are relayed into the cloud. The students then compete in the "Audi Autonomous Driving Cup", where they go against each other in developing the ultimate autonomous vehicle.
Audi aims to take the learnings from these models to then place them into production in the real world.
Audi Virtual Training Car:
Arguably the ultimate culmination of all content covered during the Audi Tech Day is the Audi virtual training car.
This car is fitted with an array of sensors, GPS locators and computers, along with an Oculus Rift headset, to create a virtual driving world.
When the Oculus Rift is fitted to the driver, he or she drives the actual vehicle, but it appears to be within a virtual world. In the virtual world, a cyclist falls over off the main road.
The driver is then asked to watch the cyclist while an obstruction appears in front of the driver with no time to stop. The car then autonomously brakes to stop the vehicle in time.
This type of technology would be the perfect addendum to a dealership where a salesperson can demonstrate the safety features of a car without needing to put the driver or passenger into harm's way.
So, Trent — there it is.
A fun-filled junket? Not quite. Hopefully this gives you an insight into these technology forums and helps you understand why we go to all the effort to bring you the latest content from around the world.