BMW will present its latest digital developments at the Innovation Days 2017 at the Chicago Technology Center. In addition to the integration of Skype for Business in the 5 Series, the Bavarian Automacher is presenting the BMW Connected + system, the new version of its mobile app, and announces new developments in connectivity. The goal is clear: make the cars smarter and prepare us for the future of the self-propelled car.
If the autonomous car represents the future of road traffic, it is still at the stage of a prototype. The availability of the vast mass of people will continue for several years, presumably until 2020 or even later.
However, the intelligent car of tomorrow has everything to redound the car’s appeal, which has been lost in recent years. The manufacturers have now understood this and are preparing for the new technology. In addition to new security equipment designed to prevent hazards and avoid accidents, the manufacturers equip their vehicles – and not just those – with new features that are designed to meet the needs of online customers and help them save time.
Like all other car manufacturers, BMW also takes the digital revolution very seriously. One of the most successful manufacturers of the past few years can not take the risk of not pushing innovations forward and thus to bully a new buyer layer with digital demands. That is why BMW is now stepping up its ambitions in this area, while remaining faithful to a maxim: personalization.
As with any digital revolution, the first step is to use the smartphone as a key to entry. Although BMW has only just started its program last year, one has to admit that a lot has already happened here.
BMW began to put a ConnectedDrive SIM card in each new car and develop Companion apps for Android and iOS to offer users a digital service landscape. The result: in less than a year, 8.5 million BMWs are connected to the Internet, more than one million people use the apps in 29 countries. This shows how much the demand for the topic “Connected Car” is with the end user.
With this first success in the back, BMW decided to increase the speed of the digital conversion in 2017. The company took the opportunity to present a new and revised version of its app at the Chicago Innovation Days, which will be released next month. BMW Connected + wants to bridge the gap between the smartphone and the car and offer the owner many adjustments and settings.
The app, which I could test with the current BMW 530e, makes a good first impression. From the app the car can be locked and unlocked, turn on the air-conditioning system before the departure, always create a 3D image of the vehicle, inform friends and colleagues about the route and much more. The app warns even when needs to be fueled, and guides the user from the parking lot to the final destination. On top of that I can also arrange maintenance appointments directly with the workshop. BMW Connected + also has the calendar in view and shows the way to the next appointment.
BMW has also brought Amazon’s language assistant Alexa into the car. The owner can Alexa even over the Amazon Echo the air conditioning in the car turn on. Other language assistants are also expected to be supported soon.
Last but not least, BMW also has security in mind. Data protection is an absolute must in this area. The app is extensively protected, all information is transmitted anonymously and analyzed by BMW only in order to improve the quality further. No data is shared or sold without consent, which is a matter of course.
The digital revolution and the change of the car naturally require a new update system. BMW is aware of this need and wants to distribute new software updates to all devices as quickly as possible.
New features come by software update on the smartphone.
That is why the company has designed a digital strategy in which the center console is only a small part. It also gets some updates over time, but only through the workshop. Everything else is handled via the mobile app and the cloud connection via Microsoft Azure. Here the updates come quickly and directly to the user and the danger of a rapidly outdated middle console is low.
BMW is increasingly focusing on machine learning to improve the systems. If that does not say anything, they are computer systems that can learn independently and no longer rely exclusively on classical programming. The car should therefore adapt itself to situations and learn from the driver while all information remains stored locally.
According to Thom Brenner, Vice President Digital Services at BMW, “the car is no longer seen as a means of transport, but as an independent entity”. For BMW, the car of the future will be a kind of coworking space in which it is possible to work comfortably and have everything important at hand.
In this sense, the collaboration between BMW and Microsoft, with Skype for Business in the center, and the new 5 Series BMW, which has been offered at dealers since the end of last year. The service will be integrated into the iDrive system of the BMW from autumn in Germany, France and the UK, and further countries are to follow shortly thereafter.
Of course, the entertainment system in the car can output Skype messages. The driver is also informed about upcoming appointments, upcoming or canceled meetings, and video conferences can be started with one click. The entire system remains operable by language. Up to ten participants can be connected to a digital meeting via Skype.
In the long term, BMW has set its sights on the self-running car. The conversion to the rolling workplace is only an intermediate step towards this goal. The ambition is to get the driver step by step to get his attention on the road. Obviously, the goal has not been achieved, and this will continue for several years – and Innovation Days. In the meantime, BMW is doing everything in its power to shorten the path to convincing users that their own solutions are the best.
The most important task BMW has to tackle now is to convince all current and future BMW drivers of the new services and the app and to constantly integrate new features that the market demands. The brand is to be led away from the pure car manufacturer to a digital, trendy image. This seems hard enough when you look at the competition – such as Tesla, Apple and Volvo. But BMW relies on its abilities and the proven power of innovation. Whether that is enough, only the future can show.
What do you think about Connected Car and autonomous driving? Is the future here, or do you prefer to continue driving yourself?