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Car Of The Future: BMW ConnectedDrive Offers Ambitious Infotainment Upgrades


Think BMWs are plush and elegant now?

Munich hasn't even scratched the surface.

BMW provided a glimpse behind its research lab walls this week in detailing some of the things it's working on under the ConnectedDrive umbrella.

It's clear Bimmer mad scientists plan to make their cars so futuristic and intuitive even Michael Knight (a.k.a. The Hoff) will be jealous.

Today's section of the two-part look takes you inside the cabin, where the BMW of the future will be able to tailor to your every conceivable need and whim.

Before we get into specifics, here's how BMW frames its ConnectedDrive R&D: "The focus of all development work is the human being, which makes information about and insights into our customers around the world a key element of market research and development--now and in the future."

In other words, BMW wants to make the car more of an extension of its owner.

BMW ConnectDrive technologies

BMW ConnectDrive technologies

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Consider the Infotainment Assistant an extension of the owner's brain. It's what BMW calls a personal butler. The technology combs through various data points--including music, podcasts, Facebook, email and your calendar--to deliver the most relevant content to you.

It funnels all this content into a "personalized radio station" of sorts, giving you customized music, news, email and social networking alerts, calendar reminders, etc. in a way that you don't even have to take your eyes off the road.

For example, if the Infotainment Assistant realizes you're late for a meeting that's inked in your calendar, it can automatically draft an email to coworkers explaining the hang-up. Similarly, if the car detects an email about the meeting getting bumped back, it will let you know so that you can take your time and grab that extra cup of coffee.

BMW ConnectDrive technologies

BMW ConnectDrive technologies

Enlarge Photo
The information will show up on a display too, so the driver can skip items and choose what he wants played. So, if you don't want your music interrupted for mindless Facebook banter, or don't want your car sending off emails to your co-workers, you still have the final say. And the system analyzes your preferences and uses them in the future.

While the Infotainment Assistant will take care of a lot of your in-car needs, there will still be times when you'll have to physically take control--turning up the volume or air conditioning, for instance. BMW will make these simple tasks even simpler with gesture-recognition technology. Examples cited include motioning your hand to scroll through the display menu and waving to skip to the next music track.

Since BMW can't think of every possible in-cabin convenience and function, it will step farther into app culture. BMW already offers some of its own apps, and it will open its circuits to third-party developers, who will be able to build and sell apps for BMW cars--with full BMW vetting and approval, of course. 

BMW ConnectDrive technologies

BMW ConnectDrive technologies

Enlarge Photo
BMW kicked off the intellectual app process by discussing its own iPhone calendar app, which can display the calendar from your smartphone and read out entries to you, helping you plan your day on the go.

We're sure developers will be lining up to offer music, social networking and GPS-based apps. I'd love to see some type of Yelp app, where your car can just start reading out reviews of local restaurants or businesses as you pass by. Better yet, it could just filter out the best ones and tell you where to go.

BMW ConnectDrive technologies

BMW ConnectDrive technologies

Enlarge Photo
BMW is also working on in-car Internet connectivity. The mobile LTE (4G) network will provide fast speeds and be able to deliver reliable Internet in a moving car.

BMW hasn't provided any type of time frame for the roll-out of these technologies, but it is clear that the automaker is working hard on redefining what the "luxury" in luxury automobile means.

In the next part, we’ll take a look at how BMW’s next wave of ConnectedDrive technologies will make cars safer--stay tuned.
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