How Much Nvidia Is Inside Audi's A8L?
Audi is one of the first automotive companies to hook up with Nvidia for help with its infotainment systems. Despite the public cooperation and announcements on both sides of the aisle, neither would confirm the exact application processor powering MMI touch. When we asked Audi, we were told it doesn't disclose that information. Nvidia echoed the same sentiment. Heck, we even tried to ping Harman, which we assumed built Audi's MMI system.
Everyone stayed quiet about the composition of the MMI. Fortunately, after a lot of persistence, we were told that the A8L's infotainment system doesn't employ Tegra at all. Despite the A7 demo platforms we saw back at CES 2012 and 2013, Tegra didn't actually make it into any Audi until this year's A3/S3.
The reason both companies kept quiet was because the graphics solution in Audi's A8L predates Tegra. It's a GeForce-derived GPU, but Nvidia wouldn't give us the details. And unfortunately, because it's a specialized multimedia processor, there was no other company to turn to for details. The only other bit of information we uncovered was that Nvidia's hardware is paired to a Texas Instrument OMAP-based SoC, the Jacinto 5.
TI's Jacinto 5 includes a single ARM Cortex-A8 core and a DSP to drive the MMI, including its radio functionality, Wi-Fi connectivity, 3G, and everything else related to the infotainment system. Nvidia's contribution kicks in for rendering 3D maps with Google Earth overlays. TI isn't specific about the exact SoC model Audi uses, and the company manufactures a great many configurations. So, we'll just have to be content identifying the A8L's internals from a high level and giving Nvidia credit for powering the complementary multimedia applications unit (MMX).
All of that hardware is controlled by QNX's real-time operating system.
Audi deploys a second MMI unit in its A8L, dedicated to the rear-seat entertainment system, which we'll detail shortly. Hopefully you're already getting the sense that this car is incredibly technology-laden, partly explaining its six-figure price tag.
Even though the Jacinto 5's single Cortex-A8 sounds like it might be a little anemic, we have no complaints about the infotainment system's performance. Controls respond quickly, free of lag. Handwriting recognition would seem to be the most delay-sensitive workload, and it's even snappy enough to impress.