Day 15 – 10/29/2011

Guilin

There is no driving today but, nevertheless, rest day would be the wrong word to describe it. The participants of the third group head for home and the drivers of the fourth wave arrive at the starting point in South China. The cars have their navigation systems updated with the routes for the next stages. The MMI Navigation directs the Audi Q3s to the desired destinations with amazing reliability, even here in China.

Pictures day 15

Fortunately, this morning is no longer as cold as the previous two days. However, the murky sky means there is still no southern summer feeling. Perhaps that makes it easier for the third group of participants to say goodbye. The journalists from Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, the UK, Italy, Japan, Korea and Poland gathered a whole lot of Chinese experiences over the last few days. They got to know some of the many facets of this huge country, have experienced its enormous dynamism and economic development, as well as its stunning nature and, over and over again, the friendliness of its people – also and especially in the areas where the route to prosperity is likely to be somewhat longer.

Now the fourth and final group arrives. Alongside a few more Germans, tomorrow will put journalists from China behind the wheel of the Audi Q3. They want to get to know this car from all angles. The compact SUV goes on sale in China in 2012, initially as an import model from Europe, later as a domestic model built in China. Is the Q3 likely to enjoy a successful career here? The SUV segment is booming in China a great deal more than other vehicle types. Audi holds clear market leadership with the Q5, and the Q7 is also highly successful. Young and female customers - a rapidly growing group of buyers here in China - are especially at home in the sporty SUV.

Today, the fleet of 20 Audi Q3s are being prepared for the following four stages – and that means primarily washing and refueling, because the Q3 continues to impress everyone with the complete absence of damage or break downs. In addition to general vehicle care, the stopovers for the next four days have to be loaded into the navigation systems. Ultimately, the fastest route is not always the most beautiful, so the routes along small and tiny country roads must be entered in the navigation system as desired detours.

Drivers from the West are initially surprised by the degree to which the Chinese roads network is detailed in the system. A total of around three million kilometers are digitized with a high level of data precision. And, while this might sound surprising, the navigation system in China has to operate with a lot more precision than, say, in Germany. Several roads often run very close to one another. On and off-ramps are far more frequent and the multi-storey concrete roadways in the major cities present very particular challenges. Intakhab Kahn explains the situation thus, “In Shanghai, there are four-storey roads with circular ramps and several exits branching off on each level. This is absolute hell for a navigation system.”

The engineer heads up system development at the Audi Infotainment Center (ITC) in Beijing, and is closely acquainted with the challenges. “Everything is more complex here in China. We have different standards and different hardware.” And, above all, a very different language with extremely sophisticated characters. It is for this reason that many of the most difficult traffic signs are stored in the system and displayed on the screen in their original form.

The ITC is one example of how intensively Audi adapts its models to the specific challenges of this market. This international group of engineers in Beijing develops and tests the infotainment and navigation systems for all Asian countries. Audi has long established a significant competitive advantage here. The new generation of large Audi models is unique in the world in understanding even written Chinese. On the touchpad of the A8 and A7 the customer can write with his/her finger – the car recognizes an incredible 29,000 different Chinese characters.

There is, admittedly, one problem – the enormous speed with which new roads and bridges are being built. In several places along the Tour, the Audi Q3s drove over bridges or through tunnels that the system did not recognize. This is, however, also a function of the regulations – the authorities in China are faster at building roads than they are at approving updates to map software.

Day 15

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