The latest iteration of BMW’s infotainment platform will deliver a variety of new features across all vehicle classes – starting later this year with the BMW iX and BMW i4.

The eighth version of iDrive will be hosted on a new curved display that wraps from behind the steering wheel to halfway across the dashboard. The 12.3-inch instrument cluster and the 14.9-inch central infotainment screen are merged into one display that is angled towards the driver for easier access. These dimensions will vary based on the vehicle but will equally offer iDrive’s new user experience (UX) and software features.

One of these new features is an expanded skillset for the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. These new skills stem from an expanded pool of underlying data and information that enables the virtual personal assistant (VPA) to act according to context. It can quickly assess the situation in the vehicle, and its surroundings, when considering when and how it will communicate with users. The VPA can now distinguish who it is talking to and will appear on the relevant screen area, enabling more direct communications with individuals in the car.  Furthermore, through over-the-air (OTA) updates, BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant will learn new functions and forms of expression – enhancing the depth and personality of its user interactions.

The new iDrive also leverages ultra-wideband (UWB) technology for some of its most interesting features. The first of these is ‘Great Entrance Moments’, an umbrella term given to the technologies which enhance UX journey from the point when the driver first approaches their car to when they start the vehicle.

UWB allows precision location pinpointing between vehicle and the key – meaning the car knows where the driver is approaching from, and how far away from the vehicle they are. When this distance drops below three meters, the vehicle automatically wakes up and turns on its interior, and exterior, lights. The vehicle then shows the customer the way to the entrance area (via a light carpet) while the door and boot lid handles are illuminated. Once the driver moves to within one-and-a-half meters, the vehicle is automatically unlocked via the user’s UWB-enabled key (found in both the key fob and in Digital Key Plus). Opening the door activates the seat’s entry assistance feature, along with the surface and steering wheel heating, and turns on the infotainment system. The personal settings from the BMW ID are loaded, and a connection is established with the driver’s smartphone while they are getting into the car. If a phone call is in progress, it will be seamlessly transferred to the vehicle’s microphone and speakers.

Another feature that utilizes UWB is BMW’s Digital Key Plus, a key part of the Great Entrance Moments process. The upcoming BMW Digital Key Plus version is based on the ultra-wideband (UWB) technology already integrated into the vehicle and in the U1 chip found in recent iPhone models. Digital Key Plus leverages this the precision location technology found in the chip to enable users to quickly unlock their vehicle using their smartphone (which can remain in their pocket or bag courtesy of UWB’s precise detection capabilities). This feature will be first introduced on the BMW iX.

The new My Modes feature enables personalized experiences for drivers and passengers alike. My Modes are designed to stimulate multiple senses, from sight, to hearing, to touch. They can be selected either by voice command or from a dedicated button on the center console.

The initial version of My Modes can combine up to ten different parameters in the vehicle. These parameters include the previous driving experience mode functions – such as drive system and transmission control, steering characteristics, and chassis settings. The activated configuration is indicated by variations in a dedicated UI; the style and layout of the displays, and a change in the display color, adapts to the experience setting in the same way as the ambient lighting. Switching between My Modes produces acoustic changes, too, including adjustment of the engine/motor sound.

The new BMW iDrive system will be launched with Efficient, Sport, and Personal Modes. Further modes will be added as part of the ongoing development of BMW iDrive in the future. This will also include modes that do not revolve primarily around the driver or the task of driving. Additional functions will be integrated into the modes, and the options for configuring functions extended. These enhancements will be imported into vehicles via future OTA updates.

Another user-centric feature embedded into BMW’s new in-vehicle operating system is “Learning Navigation”. Here, BMW Maps uses the habits associated with the user’s BMW ID as the basis for learning, and anticipating, the destination the driver is likely to head for next. These destinations can be viewed (and, if necessary deleted) both in-vehicle and in the My BMW App.

Since the introduction of BMW Operating System 7 in 2018, BMW drivers have been able to keep their vehicle up to date through BMWs’ Remote Software Upgrade functionality. BMW Operating System 8 offers the same functionality with some important enhancements, particularly in areas such as driving assistance and partial automation. Additionally, BMW Operating System 8 will allow customers to schedule the installation of a Remote Software Upgrade.

BMW Operating System 8 will provide new opportunities for third-party app integration, such as full integrations with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Likewise, in China BMW iDrive will enable extensive integration of the Alibaba and Tencent in-vehicle services.