Audi AG will equip the next-generation A8, due to arrive in Germany as an '03 model in August, with its innovative “Multi Media Interface (MMI),” a tool that allows drivers to dial and click their way through music, phone calls, directions to the theater and even the occasional Internet browse.

The German auto maker first unveiled MMI on the sultry Avantissimo concept car, shown last September at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and plans to include the feature as standard on all of its products within the next few years, says an Audi official. The A6 is expected to receive MMI a year after the A8, followed later by the A4. The new A8 comes to U.S. shores in spring or early summer 2003.

MMI follows BMW AG's controversial introduction of the i-Drive system, whose mission was to replace the myriad switches and knobs on the instrument panel with a joystick in the center console, but has instead garnered criticism for its complexity. Audi says MMI is similar but won't be nearly as confounding. “People don't want to work for technology; technology should work for them,” says Len Hunt, vice president of Audi of America, during the New York Auto Show.