What is MMI?
Multi-Media Interface (MMI) is Audi’s in-vehicle infotainment software that operates everything from the audio system to selectable driving modes. First introduced in the early 2000s, MMI has evolved over the years to meet the demands of new technologies like navigation, digital gauge clusters, and advanced driver assist systems.
How Does It Work?
MMI software is optimized to work in concert with each vehicle’s installed options and hardware setup. The interface was updated for the 2019 model year to be more touch-oriented instead of using physical controls. Previous versions of the system included a rotary dial to scroll and select items on the screen, but that has been replaced with a second display in the newest Audis. Many of Audi’s vehicles are equipped with a dual-screen infotainment system, and in these cases MMI works to control climate and vehicle settings on one screen while running entertainment functions and maps on the other. User input is handled through multi-touch surfaces on the screens themselves, voice commands, and with steering wheel controls for audio and mobile phone connectivity.
In most cases, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available, which overlays a simplified version of each smartphone software onto one of the vehicle’s screens. Vital phone functions like music, maps, podcasts, calls, and messages are all available through app icons on the interface.
Many Audi vehicles are available with a completely digital gauge cluster that replaces the traditional speedometer and tachometer setup. Known as Virtual Cockpit (Digital Cockpit in select VW models), the screen works as an extension of the MMI system to display maps, audio information, and vehicle status updates directly in front of the driver. The display is customizable, so a mix of information can be shown at any given time, and while there is no touchscreen (because that would mean reaching through the steering wheel), the Virtual Cockpit display is configurable through voice controls or steering wheel buttons.
Rear Seat Controls
The Audi A8 Sedan’s MMI system can be upgraded with a Comfort and Executive Rear Seat package that has its own touchscreen tablet to control the independent rear climate settings, seating positions, lighting, and other functions.
What’s It Like to Use MMI?
The screens themselves are among the brightest and highest resolution displays available in any vehicle today. Maps are colorful and crisp, while text and other information is easily viewable, even from wide angles. Audi’s Virtual Cockpit screen is beautiful, responsive, and works well with the main screens to deliver information to the driver.
Infotainment systems that use a touchscreen as their main method of input can be confusing at first and usually take a longer adjustment period for most people, but Audi’s MMI system is responsive and intuitive to use. Menus and controls are clearly labeled and there’s never any doubt about what you’re looking at on the screen. Audi made a point to “flatten” the menu structure on its new infotainment system, which means that users are never more than two taps away from an important setting or function while driving.
Some infotainment systems use sound to let users know that their touch inputs have registered, Audi does that too, but there’s also a clever haptic feedback system built into the new MMI setup. The screens take a bit more touch pressure than people are used to, so it’s helpful to have the indicator that you’ve pressed hard enough to register an input. It’s similar to Apple’s Force Touch that was featured on previous iPhone versions.
All of that feedback is especially helpful when using MMI’s climate control screen, where fine tuning of temperatures and other settings can be frustrating with touch inputs. Temperatures can be adjusted by holding a finger on the screen and swiping up and down, which becomes second nature after a few uses. Voice controls with the new system support natural language, which means you can “just talk” to your car to find navigation and control different functions. It can also find landmarks like coffee shops or restaurants along a mapped route.
Audi is clearly thinking of a hands-off future with its cars, even though we’re a long way off from anything resembling automated driving. The updates to MMI in recent years have made it more natural to use and have reduced the number of actions it takes to get things done. Quite a few people will appreciate the updates, as tech capabilities have surpassed performance numbers on many buyers’ shopping lists.