March 24, 2011
German automaker Audi has partnered with T-Mobile to launch Audi Connect, a new service allowing consumers to use voice-activated Google Earth, Google Local Search and Sirius Traffic information from their 2012 Audi A7 vehicles.
Audi Connect is enabled with a T-Mobile SIM card, which will be included with the vehicles. The service will debut next month.
“It’s really a fulfillment of the whole idea of a connected car where the passengers and the driver are getting up-to-date information all at once,” said Brad Stertz, corporate communications manager at Audi of America, Hernon, VA.
“Audi is the first to the market with using a touchpad and first to use with Google Earth, and the first with a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot in the car that can handle a number of different devices,” he said. “That adds a lot of value to making the car truly a connected resource for customers who own them.”
Audi or Herbie?
The Audi Connect services include voice-activated Google Search and Google Earth imagery combined with Sirius Traffic information.
The system will also allow users to obtain real-time news, weather and fuel prices.
Users can either speak commands to the car and use the voice-activated feature, or can use a touchpad where they write in a restaurant or business for which they are looking.
Audi Connect is also able to turn the vehicle into a Wi-Fi hotspot so that passengers can retrieve information from the Internet, which is beneficial if the consumers’ business clients or families are in the car, Mr. Stertz said.
The service is enabled with a T-Mobile SIM card connected to the carrier’s network that is inserted into an Audi Navigation Plus System in every vehicle.
The SIM cards will be included with the vehicle so that customers can sign up for a service plan at any time during or after the six-month complimentary trial period.
Audi Connect will also appear in the 2012 Audi A8, Audi A6 and Audi Q7 models this summer.
The Audi Q5 Hybrid, along with other future models, will feature Audi Connect.
“There is a host of things aimed at making it easier for people to get to where they want to go,” Mr. Stertz said. “You can pull in the latest mapping information that Google can provide, even if the business or street or whatever you’re looking for is new.
“It also lessens your distraction with the voice-activation feature and the touchpad,” he said.
Over the next few years, Audi is expected to invest nearly $16 billion on new products and technologies.
Audi’s aim is to make technologies for its vehicles that do not need to be swapped out in a few months, per Mr. Stertz.
T-Mobile and Audi have an eight-year contract and were drawn together in their common concern for customer service and customer care.
The AT&T and T-Mobile deal should not have any immediate effect on this agreement, Mr. Stertz said.
Audi has demonstrated this when developing Audi Connect.
“A lot of questions have been asked as to whether or not the software is safe for our customers, and we’ve made a conscious point to use our systems to minimize distractions and make it easier for people to find what they need and find kinds of information,” Mr. Stertz said.
“With [Audi Connect], you can use your fingertip or use a few words and get the latest updated information and keep you focused on driving at the same time,” he said.
Rachel Lamb, editorial assistant at Luxury Daily, New York
Rachel Lamb is an editorial assistant at Luxury Daily. Reach her at email@example.com.