In addition to fuel efficiency, one of the key battlegrounds in the current auto-tech wars is in-vehicle telematics and infotainment. Automakers are tripping all over each other to safely and functionally integrate connected features like internet radio, social networking and Web browsing into their dashboards. BMW recently outlined its own strategy, announcing a number of key upgrades to its ConnectedDrive suite that will start hitting vehicles for the 2014 model year.

iDrive 4.2

The latest update to BMW's iDrive user interface, iDrive 4.2, includes enhanced voice command capabilities, allowing drivers to access paired phone features with both Siri Eyes Free and Samsung S-Voice. The driver accesses their respective voice command program by pressing a button on the steering wheel and can then use voice instructions for things like navigation and music selection.

The latest iDrive also gets an improved version of Advanced Real Time Traffic Information, which codes traffic congestion with green, yellow and red indicators. BMW says the system will provide a clearer, more localized picture of potential traffic issues.

Along with software updates, most 2014 models will receive an updated iDrive controller featuring an integrated touchpad. The new design is meant to make control easier, and the touchpad can be used to write names, phone numbers and addresses, as well as zoom in and out on interactive maps.

IDrive 4.2 will be standard or available as an option on most 2014 models.

BMW Online Upgrades

BMW says iDrive 4.2 users that subscribe to BMW Online will gain more robust internet access through a 3G SIM card-equipped "telematics control unit" that connects subscribers to the Web and adds a Web browser to the personalized internet content available now, content that includes hotel and restaurant guides and news information. Car occupants will be able to browse the Web while the car is parked. They will also be able to use Google voice search for points of interest.

BMW Online also gets split-screen functionality, which allows for display of BMW Online content alongside a separate screen with GPS directions, entertainment information or other content. BMW Online will come as standard on all 2014 US-market 5, 6 and 7 Series cars and on the X5 and X6 SUVs.

More Apps

BMW is adding to its portfolio of BMW Online vehicle apps with browser-based vehicle applications like Yelp and StreetView. The BMW Connected app for smartphones now includes functions such as Web radio, Facebook, Twitter, calendar, Wiki Local and Last Mile.

Several third-party app providers also have BMW apps on the way, with Audible, TuneIn, Rhapsody and Glympse to join current BMW-approved apps like Pandora, MOG, Stitcher and Aupeo. Starting this summer, apps integration will be available with Android phones, as well as iPhones.

BMW i8 and i3 ConnectedDrive Features

The BMW i3 and i8 are getting close to market ready. As the first models in BMW's sustainable i sub-brand, these cars will include the i ConnectedDrive suite, a combination of standard ConnectedDrive features and e-drive-specific features, all enabled by an integrated SIM card.

The navigation system in the i3 electric car will provide a dynamic range map that shows how far the i3 can travel in relation to its location. The map feature takes into account information about the battery's charge, driving style, activity of electrical systems, selected driving mode, topography and current traffic levels to provide a realistic assessment of range. When necessary, the Driving Range Assistant can make suggestions on a more economical driving style or route and direct the driver to a nearby charging station.

BMW i drivers will also be able to use the i Remote in planning out journeys on their smartphones to forward to i cars. The app, which will be available for iOS and Android devices, is tailored to the specific needs of electric cars and helps drivers plan trips accordingly. The app also allows the driver to pull up current vehicle information remotely and control things like cabin temperature.

Expanded Service Availability

In addition to new connectivity features and apps, BMW is making existing features more widely available. The company will extend its ConnectedDrive services to another 14 markets, on top of the 11 countries where they are already available. Nearly all 2014 models will come standard with BMW Assist emergency notification technology. Concierge Service, which offers driver's 24/7 push-button access to a live personal assistant who can look up points of interest, forward directions directly to the car, make calls and forward contact information, will be standard on all V8- and V12-equipped 2014 6 and 7 Series models. It will also be available as a standalone option on nearly all other 2014 models.

Source: BMW