Audi connect

Cars that learn

An interview with Martin Deinhard, Head of Development for Audi connect Infotainment and Apps

Futuristic cars roll through the streets as highly intelligent and connected vehicles. They navigate autonomously through unfamiliar cities, book parking spaces, recognise risky situations and react independently. For Martin Deinhard, this is not merely a vision for the distant future. With his team, the Head of Development for Audi connect Infotainment and Apps is working flat out on implementing digital solutions and the intelligent use of swarm data.

Mr Deinhard, you and your department at Audi are focused intensely on the digital revolution. New apps and online services are continuously being introduced in the market. How quickly can the latest developments actually be introduced into series production?

That is one of the biggest challenges for us. In the series development of a car, we have comparatively long development cycles and also have to ensure that our services can also be operated safely while driving. To quickly make new digital services available in the car, we design our electronic architecture to be extremely flexible, since many customers today are online around the clock and want to be able to use their digital habitat in the car as well. With our modular concepts, we are able to keep up with the fast-paced world of consumer electronics and offer new services in our cars within a few months.


And how will a major company group meet this demand?

In the app development for which I’m responsible, we are close to the customer and to digital development. We leverage the potential that this produces and view ourselves as designers of smart solutions. So my team is interdisciplinary and diverse. In addition, we work together internationally with many start-ups and also integrate the good ideas of young developers.  


How should we picture your team?

The colleagues come from a wide range of industries. We have physicists, electronics engineers and a lot of computer scientists working with us. Others have already gained experience in the business world, have founded start-ups, or bring a business administration background with them. We are growing very rapidly in the course of digitalization. We started two years ago with just a few people, but today the team is made up of more than 20 employees and is made up of many nationalities. My team is very young; the average age right now is 31.

It seems lately that the demand for apps is getting more selective. Customers are only using the ones that really offer them added value. What advantages do new digital services offer?

The services are getting more and more personalised and are tailored precisely to the customer. I can do a lot more than just play my favourite songs or listen to my radio stations. Apps also learn my tastes, so I get recommendations for other songs or stations that I didn’t know about – there is often some great stuff included here that sometimes even develops into a favourite band. One other example: Digital services seek out the next pizzeria for me in an unfamiliar city and know if there’s a free parking space nearby, which can soon be paid for without the use of cash.


Which digital trends will change our driving habits the most in coming years?

One important issue is the use of swarm data. Cars will then have not only the information in their immediate surroundings that their own sensors and cameras detect and process, they will also share this information through the cloud with other vehicles. As a result, we can offer new services in the first phase that make driving safer. In the long term, swarm data combined with machine learning components are essential prerequisites for self-driving cars. That is one of the most important trends we are pursuing.

One basis for piloted driving is precise map data. Together with other car manufacturers, Audi is relying on what used to be the map service of Nokia. Is HERE the future of the map service?

We are likely in the process of the most radical change the automotive industry has ever experienced. We are therefore working very closely with colleagues from BMW and Daimler with the HERE map service, and are also leaving the platform open for other manufacturers. This way we can actively use the advantages of large swarm intelligence systems for the development of the automotive industry’s digital future and offer our customers new services.


Piloted driving is above all supposed to make driving safer, right? Many people are even talking about “vision zero” – the goal of someday having zero traffic-related deaths. How are you using swarm data to achieve goals like this?

We are already generating functions that offer greater safety in road traffic. One example is Adaptive Cruise Control – or ACC for short. When you drive with active ACC today, you set a maximum speed that the car then maintains, and it additionally bases its braking and acceleration on the vehicle ahead while also factoring in the route ahead.Now, it can still happen that an accident occurs on the route, or the road is slippery or iced over. Today’s car does not detect this yet. With intelligent processing of swarm data, drivers and cars can be warned in advance of hazards like this.


How exactly does the local hazard information function?

Imagine this scenario: It is winter and on a certain stretch of road, the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) engages in a great many cars to prevent these cars from sliding off the road on a bend. This is a clear indication of black ice at precisely this point. We put this indication to use by sending the anonymised information detected by the car – that ESC engages at precisely this section of the road – to our Audi IT backend. All of these reports then arrive there and we can send an active hazard warning through the cloud to all vehicles that are currently on this stretch of road. This particular application can of course also be put to use in other cases, such as at an accident site or where visibility is poor due to fog or heavy rain, for example. This way we can all actively contribute to making road traffic safer.


Cars are connecting not only with mobile phones but also with wearables. These devices are capable of measuring the pulse or heart rate of people with high blood pressure. Is it conceivable that cars will one day intervene here and drive autonomously to the accident and emergency unit?

That could happen, but at the moment that still seems a long way off. For one thing, the pulse monitors in wearables are still not sophisticated enough, and for another, city traffic in particular is naturally an extremely complex environment with respect to self-driving cars.But we are already considering the “my Audi cares for me” aspect in development, and not only for detecting emergencies. The car as a space that is simultaneously private and connected is ideally suited to monitoring fitness and health. The vision of Audi is for drivers to be more relaxed when they arrive at their destinations than they were when they got in the car. We call this project Audi Fit Driver.

Martin Deinhard

Martin Deinhard studied industrial engineering with a focus on automotive engineering. He joined Audi nine years ago through the International Graduate Trainee Programme and in this context worked in Logistics and in Product Management. The foreign assignment component of the program took him to Beijing for a few months.

After returning to Ingolstadt, he was first responsible for the Total Vehicle Development department, which included product cost optimisation for electrics/electronics. Management of the electronics project for the Audi TT was followed by that for the Audi A4, A5 and Q5.

Since 2014, Martin Deinhard has been Head of Development for Audi connect Infotainment and Apps, where he coordinates a team of more than 25 employees.

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