Essentially, the idea according to BMW is that this technology will make drivers more efficient and, crucially, more mobile. BMW ConnectedDrive is based around and powered by a fully integrated and fixed on-board SIM card.
“This does not simply turn the car into another mobile device,” Lam says. “Instead, this turns the car into a virtual flow of information out of and into the car via a permanently installed SIM card that connects to the 3G network.”
In short, forget any preconceived notions you have of a fixed phone in the centre console. ConnectedDrive is the pathway to a whole lot more than that. It is a whole range of technologies that connect the car with the driver, and the world outside. This new system is all about what BMW is calling ‘telematics’. In other words, telecommunications, information technology and GPS data at your fingertips.
Importantly, any features of ConnectedDrive that aren’t considered to be ‘drivers aids’ (read sat-nav or voice guidance) are disabled unless the car is in park and the handbrake is applied.
Howard Lam, Product Planning Manager for ConnectedDrive with BMW in Australia, was keen to emphasise BMW’s history with in-car technology at our 4 Series Gran Coupe pre-drive briefing where ConnectedDrive was explained.
For some background, some of the German marque’s previous innovations include:
- 1980 - the first on-board computer that displayed the external temperature
- 1981- the first parking distance system
- 1994 - the first integrated satellite navigation system
Lam went on to explain that all three of these systems “connected the driver to the car more than ever before” when they were added. It might sound commonplace now, but an external temperature gauge was unheard of in 1980.
There’s also no doubt that there is now, more than ever, an increased importance placed on connectivity in everyday life: “We need to stay in touch with family and with friends, work on the go, have ready access to information, along with our library of music and video,” Howard told us.
“Our view at BMW is why can’t we have this level of technology in a car?”
Here’s a quick breakdown of the main features that 4 Series Gran Coupe buyers can access:
A range of applications will make the 4 Series safer and more comfortable for the driver than any BMW before it. Park assist, head-up display, BMW night vision with dynamic light spot, anti-dazzle high beam assist and driving assistant or driving assistant plus are all part of the Driver Assistance package.
Teleservice connects the car itself to the owner’s nominated dealer and service centre. When a service is due, the on-board system sends an email to the dealer/service centre, which in turn contacts the owner.
The dealer will already know at this point what the car needs. It might require an oil change, the oil level might be reading slightly low, the brake pads might be showing wear or there could be a warning light illuminated. Whatever the service requirement, the on board system will let the dealer know. This means the dealer can plan in advance, and order any parts beforehand. Ultimately, this will save you, the customer, time.
A Teleservice breakdown call transfers BMW diagnostic data and vehicle position to the roadside assistance agent in the event of a roadside breakdown or fault. In this instance, the service vehicle that is being sent to assist will know in advance what is wrong with the car. Teleservice can also alert the owner (via text or email) that the battery is running low because you've left the interior lights on for example.
There’s a manual SOS button, which makes an automatic emergency call to the BMW ConnectedDrive call centre. In the event of a serious accident, auto call works in concert with intelligent crash sensors. The sensors detect a severe accident and automatically call the BMW ConnectedDrive call centre.
When the agent receives the call, they will be able to see the position of the vehicle, number of occupants, risk of severe injuries, status and some general collision details. At that point a voice call is initiated, with the agent trying to make contact with the occupants of the car. The agent can then call emergency services on the occupant’s behalf while also remaining on the phone with them.
Connected Drive Services and Apps:
With this apps based service, you can search via Google and have in vehicle access to apps on your smartphone, as well as specific in-vehicle apps.
These include Facebook, Twitter, Web Radio, Wiki Local, News, Weather and online office. BMW online office allows the driver to have emails read and answered via voice control in the vehicle. Owners can also set up external email accounts like you would a Gmail account on a mobile device for example.
Parked your car somewhere and can’t remember where it is? Flash the headlights with your smartphone while you wander around looking. Once you set your smart phone up, it becomes a virtual remote control but without the limitations of distance.
You can even lock and unlock the 4 Series Gran Coupe via your smart phone. This system will be especially handy when the smart key is out of range – as there’s no distance restriction. Remote climate control means you can cool the car down or heat the car up before you get in so the temperature is exactly as you want when you do get in.
Vehicle finder is another clever feature that lets you locate the car using Google maps if you really have no idea where you parked it.
Real time traffic information:
Time is of the essence when it comes to avoiding road congestion. It is no good getting the warning when you’re already in the snarl.
The ConnectedDrive system runs off the 3G network, enabling a more comprehensive data feed into the system that is updated faster, and more often. The system also draws from a variety of sources. The information is then shown on the sat-nav in-car map display by way of colour coding - red, yellow or green depending on how heavy the traffic is. Areas where roadwork is being undertaken are also highlighted.
Concierge services will become a driver’s personal assistant. Destination search suggests a list of pubs at the town you might be heading to, for example. It can also suggest places to eat, or places to stay. The system runs the search automatically once you ask the question. Then the system sends the results to the car via the sat.nav system.
You can in theory search for anything you need, such as the closest ATM, a hospital or a doctor.
ConnectedDrive offers a proper internet connection to access the net as you would from a computer.
There are two ways to order and have ConnectedDrive installed. The first is from the factory when you order your 4 Series at the dealer. This means it is already built into the car from day one.
All cars have the integrated SIM installed from the factory, so you can also have the system activated after purchase by logging into the new ConnectedDrive online store, which is due to launch in late 2015.
Owners can purchase the product from the store, which is accessible 24 hours a day, then the online services would be installed over the 3G network.
Connected Drive Lifestyle Package $690 - includes ConnectedDrive Services and Remote Services
Connected Drive Freedom Package $1200 - includes ConnectedDrive Services, Remote Services, Real Time Traffic Information, and Concierge Services
Note: TeleServices and Intelligent Emergency Calls are included as standard equipment in all ConnectedDrive capable models.
Real Time Traffic Information (with the Lifestyle Package) - $250
Internet (with either Lifestyle or Freedom Pack) - $200
Intelligent Emergency call Lifetime
ConnectedDrive services including online apps Three years
Remote Services Lifetime
Concierge Services Three years
Real Time Traffic Information Three years
Internet One year