BMW has finally released its biggest infotainment update so far, with broad-ranging changes including new mapping features, wireless Android Auto, and support for Apple’s iPhone Digital Key feature in iOS 14.
BMW Operating System 7 came preloaded on the M8 Competition Convertible for us to sample the new technology earlier this year. Rollout of the new system started with the new 5 Series and many other existing owners can expect it too.
Those that are supported have been receiving the update as a free, over-the-air upgrade. One of the most controversial features is the newly-expanded BMW ConnectedDrive Store, which allows drivers to temporarily purchase access to vehicle functionality they didn’t buy on day one. This feature is not available in South Africa as yet.
First things first, perhaps the most obvious and exciting change, though, is the mapping system. The new BMW Maps leans heavily on the cloud, tapping vehicles’ embedded data connection for smarter routing.
There’s now free text input in the search bar and even natural-language searches by voice instead. Search results include contextual information now, too, such as business hours and ratings. For areas such as Parkhurst and Linden there’s parking status, with predictions as to how likely finding street parking will be, identifying open spaces, and even taking into account the vehicle’s size so you’re not left trying to squeeze this M8 into a gap more suited to an M2.
Although the cars will be able to figure out routes offline, with the addition of the cloud there’s real-time traffic information taken into account as well. BMW blends that with historical and predicted data, automatically adjusting the route according to changes in the road conditions. Which essentially means each BMW with the system will act as an road traffic data point, feeding back anonymized information on current flow and congestion levels.
For those with a recent iPhone and iOS 14, BMW has added support for Digital Key functionality as first announced at last years WWDC. The technology uses NFC to authenticate access to the car via an iPhone, as well as permit sharing – temporary or long-term – with other drivers.
That includes the ability to limit certain features depending on who has access, such as capping top speed and range for younger or less-experienced drivers.
For Android users, meanwhile, BMW has enabled not only Android Auto, but the wireless version. That still remains a relative rarity in the car world right now. There’s support not only for the car’s display in the centre console, but things like Google Maps guidance in the instrument cluster and the heads-up display.
BMW’s voice control system has gotten new functionality with BMW OS 7, including more conversational interactions. There’s the ability to control vehicle features, such as open and close the windows, or to switch between the different driving modes.
Arguably most useful, though, are the ways in which the assistant can help with day to day life without even being asked. New automated routines support triggering certain features depending on time or location. For example , you could set it up to automatically open the driver’s window when you’re entering your work parking garage so that you can scan your pass.
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