Audi: Vorsprung Durch IPhone.

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Explaining the many features of a car has always been a challenge. Manuals remain largely unread. When I was at Volkswagen, someone had the brilliant idea of making interactive CD-ROMs. I protested: “So that car stops with a cryptic trouble light, and now the poor customer is supposed to go home, find the CD, pop it into the computer and check what that light means?” My protests fell on deaf ears, and the CDs were made. Now, someone at Audi had a better idea …

Owners of an Audi A1 can download an application that runs on their iPhone. (Android or Windows? SOL.)

According to Automobilwoche [sub], once the app is on the iPhone, the customer must aim the phone’s camera at the part he or she does not understand, hit a button, and the iPhone will explain what’s going on. If the feature is one of the 65 the iPhone app recognizes, that is. In a later version, the iPhone will be familiar with 250 parts of the car, even if they are under the hood. So in a few years, when you see a lady by the side of the road, aiming her iPhone at the dipstick, you’ll know what to do. Currently, the app is sub-hood-agnostic.

The picture above shows you how this works. You aim the iPhone at the ominous stalk to the left of the steering column. A red quadrant signals that the stalk has been recognized. You push a button, and it says “Geschwindigskeitsregelanlage”, which is German for cruise control. Isn’t technology wonderful?

And what about the warning lights? Not yet. “It is conceivable that in the future, a customer can see with a single click on his smartphone what kind of fuel and oil the car needs,” says Das Autohaus. “The meaning of a blinking warning light will then also be identified quickly and easily via the smartphone.” Sounds like the blinkenlights will come in the 3.0 version.

Trouble lights aside, Audi thought of everything, even of the poor sods who have an iPhone, but not Audi A1. They get four pictures on the web. Aim your iPhone at the picture, and the phone will tell you what it is. I forgot: You need to subscribe to iTunes first.

Sorry, guys: Isn’t there a big screen in the dash? CAN-Bus connected? Why do I feel I am being ignored again?

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

More by Bertel Schmitt

Join the conversation
2 of 24 comments
  • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on May 23, 2011

    I always read the manual in any car that I drive, especially if I'm borrowing it for an extended period. Generally the cars that I have available to borrow are fairly basic, but I get a charge out of the "Driver's Education lite" where the manual is telling you how you should drive, and to turn the windshield wipers on when it's raining. I have to say one instance where reading a manual helped save somebody at least $150. When I was working at Wal-Mart I had a lady come in with her manual and she was frantic because she couldn't get her car started (Mercedes or BMW - IIRC) and couldn't even turn the key. She was ready to have it towed to the dealer at 9:30 in the evening. Knowing that many of the lesser models have steering wheel locks I figured that her car would have something similar, and I asked to see her manual. I read the part of the manual where it explains how to start the car after the steering wheel locks and told her to turn the wheel as far to whichever side it was already turned and try turning the key again. She went out and did this and got the car going and I believe she even made a special trip back inside to thank me for saving her the time and possibly money (I wouldn't know if a tow-truck driver would have thought to have her try the wheel) of hiring a tow truck to bring the vehicle back to the dealer. I believe the closest MB or BMW dealer was about 30 miles away.

  • M 1 M 1 on May 24, 2011

    My personal rant about owner's manuals lies in the way that many manufacturers print one giant generic manual for an entire series of vehicles. Do I really need instructions about strapping a car seat into the back seat of my Viper?

  • Tassos Most people here who think it is a good idea have NO idea how much such a conversion costs. Hint: MORE than buying an entire new car.
  • Zipper69 Current radio ads blare "your local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer" and the facias read the same. Is the honeymoon with FIAT over now the 500 and big 500 have stopped selling?
  • Kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh hmmm get rid of the garbage engine in my chevy, and the garbage under class action lawsuit transmission? sounds good to me
  • ToolGuy Personally I have no idea what anyone in this video is talking about, perhaps someone can explain it to me.
  • ToolGuy Friendly reminder of two indisputable facts: A) Winners buy new vehicles (only losers buy used), and B) New vehicle buyers are geniuses (their vehicle choices prove it):