While it may not be quite as quick as its GT cousin, Audi’s upcoming Q4 e-tron compact crossover EV will have a few new tricks that the sedan does not. Specifically, the Q4 will come equipped with a slick, albeit optional, augmented reality heads-up display (HUD) able to display critical driving data directly into the driver’s line of sight.
HUDs are not exactly new to the automotive, or even EV, space. I for one was a big fan of the pop-up HUD on the Kia Niro EV from 2019. However, the Q4’s HUD is far more than a simple piece of steering column-mounted transparent plastic — it’s displayed within the windshield itself. The HUD consists of two sections: a static status section that shows basic information like the vehicle’s current speed and traffic signs, and an active augmented reality (AR) section. Within the AR section, features like turning arrows generated by the navigation system will be superimposed into the driver’s field of view (roughly where they should be in real-life), appearing to float up to 10 meters ahead of the vehicle at 60 FPS and covering roughly a 70-inch diagonal portion of the front windscreen. The status section, on the other hand, will appear to sit just 3 meters ahead of the driver’s position.
To generate these images, the Q4 relies on what Audi calls its picture generation unit (PGU), located within the driver’s instrument cluster. “A particularly bright LCD directs the light beams it generates onto two level mirrors, and special optical components separate the portions for the near-field and distant areas,” the company explained in a press release Tuesday. “The level mirrors direct the beams onto a large concave mirror that can be adjusted electrically. From there, they reach the windshield, which reflects them into what is known as the eyebox, and thus onto the driver’s eyes.”
To prevent the augmented images from jittering, jumping or otherwise losing sync with the real-world situation around them, the Q4 employs an AR Creator (essentially a software-based modular processing unit) to continually predict where objects around the vehicle are and how quickly their positions are changing during the fractions of a second it takes to collect, process, and display the information gleaned by the vehicle’s various sensors onto the HUD. This keeps the AR image from shaking and jittering as you drive down the street.
Interestingly, the AR HUD works even if you’ve got the Q4 running in adaptive cruise. While the vehicle will keep itself in the center of the lane, the HUD will still provide the driver with pertinent information. For example if the Q4 sees that it’s nearing a lane marker and the driver hasn’t yet engaged the turn signal, the vehicle will activate its lane departure warning system and superimpose a right red line over the real-life lane marker.
The HUD isn’t Audi’s only new technological toy. Like the GT, the Q4 comes packed with modern displays such as the 10.25-inch instrument cluster, which comes standard. It replaces the mechanical meters and dials of yesteryear with a “power meter” that summarizes all the relevant information the driver might need, from the vehicle’s output to the amount of charge remaining in the Q4’s 82 kWh battery pack. Drivers will also have their choice of either a standard 10.1-inch MMI touchscreen infotainment display (1,540 x 720) that handles a majority of the vehicle’s cabin features or they can upgrade to an 11.6-inch (1,764 x 824) version that Audi is touting as its largest touchscreen to date. The larger display will be optional and is expected to become available by the end of the year.
And, since fiddling with touchscreens while driving is an excellent way to end up with your car straddling the freeway’s center divide, the Q4 e-tron will offer voice control. Just say, “Hey Audi” to activate it and ask your question as you would another driver. But no, sadly, it does not have any Grey Poupon.