The rise of in-car infotainment systems has seen electronic displays vying with traditional instrumentation, such as the speedometer, odometer and tachometer, for dashboard space and driver attention. Audi's solution that will be featured in its new third-generation TT is to combine the old with the new in its "virtual cockpit."
Having made it its debut in the Lamborghini Huracan, Audi’s virtual cockpit places a 12.3-inch TFT screen behind the steering wheel where the standard instrumentation would usually sit. In addition to displaying information about speed and revs, the system can also display navigation and media info and car settings.
Being a TFT display, the virtual cockpit allows the way the information is laid out to be changed depending on driver preferences. In “classic" mode, the binnacle is dominated by a traditional speedo and rev-counter, while information about navigation and the car’s entertainment systems are pushed to the middle to minimize distractions. This mode most closely mirrors a traditional setup.
In “infotainment” mode, however, the car will push details about maps, audio or phone to the front, and speed and revs are displayed on small readouts in the bottom corners of the display. This allows easy management of the MMI entertainment system, and takes the place of a screen mounted on the center console.
On the TTS model there is also a third "sport" mode, with the dials dominating the display area.
Audi has paid special attention to making the instruments look and feel natural. The system is powered by a quad-core Nvidia Tegra processor, running a special 3D program that allows the rev-counter to refresh at 60 frames per-second. This means all animations should stay smooth and give feedback similar to that provided by analog dials.
Beside its cool factor, there are a number of benefits to this design. The potential for customization is enormous, with the system having the potential to allow a fully individualized binnacle, where the screen displays only the information that the driver wants to see.
Additionally, by packing everything into the instrument binnacle, there's no need for a separate display on the center console. From a design perspective, this means everything is directly in front of the driver and the console can also be cleaner and simpler. This is something Audi has clearly focused on, something that is further evidenced by Audi packing the TT’s air-conditioning controls into the car’s three central air vents.
Tied in with the car's virtual cockpit is the optional 12 speaker, 680 W Bang & Olufsen sound system. The system uses a microphone to analyze potentially intrusive sounds and then tailors the speaker output to compensate. The system is coupled with Audi's Symphoria software, which separates the different elements of each piece of audio before distributing them among the car's speakers to create what Audi claims is a "wider and deeper" sound.