When the world finally ends in a big fireball, I’m sure people will always say BMW’s iDrive infotainment system is the best there is.
However, BMW is not going to rest on its laurels. To maintain its leadership position in infotainment technology, it is adding a bunch of new super-tech features to the iDrive system that will power the iX and i4 electric vehicles.
The iDrive 8 system uses natural language processing, gesture control and machine learning to connect vehicle and driver in ways that are more intuitive, personal and emotional manners.
The most technical feature of all is the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, a kind of human AI that lives in the dashboard to help you with all driving-related tasks. It can control air conditioning, music, heating, ambient lighting and driving modes, automatically or with driver input.
In fact, if you tell it your feet are cold, BMW says the smart assistant will respond by turning up the heat in the floor.
According to BMW, drivers will also be able to name the assistant any name they want. Yeah, you can call him Kitt, or Hal, if that’s your thing. Apparently it’s also going to have a face. Seriously, here’s what Beamer says:
The Assistant’s new visualization approach features spheres of light of varying sizes and brightness levels, giving it more space and new ways of expressing itself. This visual image also gives it a “face” with a clearly visible point of focus and identifiable activity states through gestures.
The German automaker claims the new assistant is so smart thanks to the underlying data and information it was built on. This allows him to respond and communicate with drivers, depending on the context.
Presumably, he’ll yell at you if you’re about to crash into a tree. Or it will pleasantly oblige you when you ask him to spot Dire Straits as you hit the freeway, praising your good taste in the music as you go.
In fact, the system will take driving conditions into account before attempting to interact with passengers, expect it to remain silent at busy intersections, and speak up when it is safe to do so. . It will also turn up the air conditioner when it is hot outside or increase the heating when it is cold.
The real bargain
Super high-tech, almost sensitive cars sure sounds good, but my favorite feature by far is something called ‘BMW ID’.
Simply put, BMW ID allows drivers to personalize their car and then take those settings with them on other compatible vehicles.
This means that you can load your preferences onto loaner vehicles or have multiple users for the same car. Each driver can load their own profile before setting off to make sure their driving experience is exactly the way they like it.
If you’ve ever had to share a car, you’ll know it’s an absolute bargain.
It looks like BMW’s next-gen iDrive is throwing the challenge of who has the best infotainment system against its competition.
One of the biggest challenges probably won’t come from an auto brand, but from search giant Google.
Google’s Android Automotive is already available in the Polestar 2 – I can say firsthand that it’s great, it just works. The transition from phone to car and back is neat and superior to any other system I’ve used.
However, Android Automotive is not tied to any car manufacturer. Google and Ford have reportedly teamed up to bring the platform to millions of cars and will begin integrating it in 2023.
It will be much more accessible than BMW’s more upscale offering.
Although the Android experience will undoubtedly appeal to many, especially those who use Android phones. I expect BMW’s system to feel decidedly more polished, well, just special.
I will probably fall even more in love with him when I can give him his own name, and he can whisper sweet nothing in my ear during our long night trips.
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Published March 16, 2021 – 10:18 UTC