The upgrades for iDrive/ConnectedDrive system represent BMW’s attempt to catch up with the MMI infotainment system of rival Audi. BMW unveiled a wide variety of modifications that would build on many of its key features. For one thing, BMW is keeping the iDrive controller but its appearance and feel will be different from the current knob. The controller is bigger -- the new model has a 45mm width over the old model’s 35mm. There will be a touch-sensitive panel on the top such as the future Audi MMI Touch setups. Just like the Audi system, the iDrive touch controller will function as a touch-keyboard that will enable users to draw letters or numbers that can then be inputted into the navigation system. It’s interesting that the new system’s touch controller can identify Chinese characters. BMW partnered with Dragon, which develops voice-to-text software programs, to make a new type of voice recognition system.
It functions somewhat similar to the iPhone’s Siri feature but it uses a server instead of the on-board software to determine what’s being said. As a result, it can parse what’s being said more effectively. Theoretically, the user can punch in a navigation destination or make a call without needing a particular call/dial command or the specific commands that the GPS requires. If a text message or email is received by the driver, the BMW system can read the message aloud. And instead of canned responses, the system can take dictation. In addition, the BMW system will receive a SIM card and a data connection, permitting it to directly connect to the Internet and download information for auxiliary applications, traffic details, and weather news. Other devices in the car can also use the Internet connection, acting as a Wi-Fi hotspot. This makes it comparable to the MMI system presently used on Audis.
The difference between the Audi and BMW systems is that 3G cellular internet is used by Audi’s MMI while the BMW system supports 4G LTE, which can be faster than 3G by up to 10 times. Since LTE coverage isn’t universal yet, the BMW system can revert to 3G or 2G/GSM when the signal becomes low. In the regions where LTE is already running, the BMW navigation system and hotspot users may get a major increase in speed. With regards to the on-board navigation, it will be three-dimensional with a 3D city mode that models buildings. The route guidance is engaged and a turn is drawing nearer. Meanwhile, the navigation system instantly moves from a simple arrow to a three-dimensional, birds-eye view of the intersection (including traffic data). As the driver draws closer, the system shifts to an overhead view of the intersection and this could overlay date about lane choice. Furthermore, BMW said that the on-board hard drive for music file storage has increased to 20 GB. This will release an open Software Development Kit to expose BMW Apps to new applications beyond the Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Pandora, and MOG applications that are presently supported.