Debuting in the upcoming iX and i4, the newest iteration of BMW’s driver-passenger-vehicle interface acts as a digital, intelligent and proactive partner during the time you spend inside your vehicle.
Advances have been made all-around to deliver a more natural interactive and holistic user experience between the driver and their BMW. Underpinning the unique user experience are a new generation of displays, controls, software, and extremely powerful connectivity and data processing.
iDrive 8 is designed with a focus on voice and dialogue-based interaction using natural language and touch operation via the BMW Curved Display. The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant is the main way to interact with your BMW using voice, adjusting to the driver’s routines as well as to what is happening around the vehicle. A new customer experience welcomes the driver and invites them into their BMW with a choreographed routine. It all starts with illumination of the area around the vehicle and its interior before the doors unlock automatically and the cabin is prepared for the occupants. During the journey, the new My Modes use an interplay of various functions set the mood using a combination of vehicle functions and the interior ambience lighting.
The new BMW iDrive 8 is constantly processing large amounts of not only self-generated data, but also data collected from the BMW Group vehicle fleet to implement the driver’s wishes in a context-related way. Paving the way for greater personalization is the BMW ID. This system recognizes repetitive situations, learns from them and provides suggestions on how functions can be activated accordingly. Remote Software Upgrade allows the new BMW iDrive to benefit from regular over-the-air improvements, integrate additional functions and stay up to date.
The integration of third-party apps is more comprehensive than ever. The most important applications in each individual market around the world can be imported seamlessly into the vehicle’s operating system. The display and operation of these apps will be familiar to customers from their smartphones.
History of BMW iDrive
The arrival of iDrive 20 years ago saw BMW ushering in a new era of in-car operating technology. Keen to get a grip on the constantly expanding array of functions in vehicle interiors, in 2001 BMW introduced a paradigm shift in the then new BMW 7 Series – one which enabled the inexorable march of buttons and controls throughout the cockpit to be checked and reduced. In their place came a color screen in the center of the instrument panel (the control display) and a rotary dial on the center console (the iDrive Controller). This multifunctional system allowed drivers to control a large number of vehicle settings, entertainment, navigation and telecommunications functions with a single operating tool. Within the space of a few years, iDrive effectively became the new industry standard and proved to be extremely future proof.
20 years later, the developers and designers focusing on user interaction and on the user experience have faced a new set of challenges – a constant stream of new functions is joining the fray, functions are gaining in complexity all the time, and operating them needs to become easier and more natural. The BMW cars of today are intelligent and able to build a detailed picture of their surroundings and make sense of it using modern sensors and data processing. They are permanently connected to the BMW Cloud and therefore benefit from the combined computing power, long-term and real-time data, machine learning, and swarm intelligence generated by the 14 million connected BMW vehicles out on the roads.
The developers of the new BMW iDrive have carried over the car’s expanded technical abilities into an all-embracing user experience distinguished by its intelligent symbiosis of hardware and software. Looking ahead, the car will become an increasingly smart and automated device which maintains a natural dialogue with the user. This interaction will involve the user simply making iDrive aware of their wishes and requests, while the system learns how its user behaves, comes up with suggestions in real time (based on an extensive pool of detailed knowledge) and actively proposes them to the driver – who then only needs to confirm.
What began with the introduction of a rotary dial and a digital display is now an all-encompassing, intelligent, multi-sensory experience tailored to the user. That is what the new BMW iDrive 8 represents. It brings about another paradigm shift – this time to a natural dialogue between the user and their vehicle: more intuitive, personal, but also engaging.
Design and operating concept
The first BMW vehicle to receive the new iDrive 8 system will be the iX. The all-electric Sports Activity Vehicle was developed from the inside out to deliver an engaging experience in performance, technology and inside the cabin space. Advances made in the field of digital design are reflected in the appearance of the user interface which fulfils its functional role in an extremely clear and very aesthetically pleasing way. This artistic approach uses graphics to enhance the interaction between driver and vehicle.
A prime example of this form is the use of a minimalist design language in both the exterior and interior of the car, which is carried over in the reduced design of the digital elements of the BMW iDrive. For example, the clear structures of the surfaces for the interior door trim – dominated by diagonal lines – are reflected in the graphical user interface of the BMW Curved Display. This creates an uninterrupted connection between the user interface design and the vehicle design.
The most distinctive new addition on board is the BMW Curved Display, which groups together the slim, non-reflective glass, high-resolution 200 ppi 12.3-inch information display and 14.9-inch control display. This curved screen offers a futuristic interpretation of the traditional BMW driver orientated cockpit design and gives it the appearance of almost floating. The BMW Curved Display is angled towards the driver, making the intuitive touch control very straightforward. The front passenger however still retains a full view of the displays and can operate the system by touch control with ease.
The BMW Head-Up Display features optimized graphics and additional design content to enhance the information provided to the driver. It is now integrated flush into the surface of the instrument panel with no bezel surround, and therefore fits invisibly into the minimalistic interior design.
The “Act, Locate and Inform” principle, which ensures information is distributed clearly, takes the BMW driver-orientated cockpit design to a new level. Pre-filtering ensures that only information relevant to the driving situation is presented to the driver – and always shown where they can absorb it as quickly and easily as possible. This is an example of the BMW Group’s “Eyes on the road – Hands on the wheel” design principle at work. The driver is shown certain instructions in the Head-Up Display (Act). If the route guidance function of the navigation system is activated, this is where they will see recommendations on which lane to be in or the distance to the next exit or turn. Meanwhile, a detailed map in the display behind the steering wheel offers location-finding information (Locate). And the large map view in the right-hand area of the BMW Curved Display provides the driver and front passenger with an overall overview of their trip.
In order to provide an improved interactive experience with a more technologically sophisticated and complex product such as the BMW iX, voice control and touch functions of the BMW Curved Display are prioritized. The number of buttons and switches has been reduced by almost half compared to current vehicles. At the same time, control clusters for relevant and frequently used basic functions are retained where customers expect to find them.
The control panels on the center console and instrument panel have an all-new minimalist design. The familiar iDrive Controller is the central control element. The Touch Controller is designed in an extremely smart glass-effect finish for the BMW iX. The color and materials used for the center console give it a very sophisticated appearance. The Controller is enclosed by a panel with a High-gloss Black frame, a glass-effect surface and white backlit buttons. On the center console, the control surface with active haptic inputs subdivided by feeler bars is used to select the iDrive menus, My Modes and other functions. The Controller, the rocker switch for gear selection, the audio roller control and the seat adjustment buttons can also be specified in an optional polished crystal finish.
Graphical user interface
The new generation of BMW iDrive brings with it a new design language with eye-catching graphics, modern colors, futuristic textures and forms and expanded use of light to create an immersive visual experience. At the same time, the user interface has been optimized to present just the right amount of information in an easy-to-understand way.
The extensive individualization options available for the screens in the instrument display can be accessed quickly via the function keys on the steering wheel. The two-axis operating system enables user-friendly vertical list navigation of on-screen content with the rotating key, as well as toggling between menus by tilting the key horizontally. This allows the driver to move quickly between the content and layout menus and make changes via vertical list navigation. The driver can switch between three layouts and various different widgets according to personal preference by using the thumb control.
The driver can choose from a media widget, a portion of the navigation map for orientation, detailed status displays for the driver assistance systems in the Assisted View and a G-force meter, which displays longitudinal and lateral acceleration in figures and graphics. In addition, a 3D graphical range display provides a quick overview of the car’s current operating range (calculated according to the current driving style), the minimum and maximum remaining range, and – if the navigation function is activated – the distance to the driver’s destination.
In the Drive layout, drivers can use a dynamically changing area in the center of the information display to show individually selectable information. The Focus layout, meanwhile, has been designed for dynamic driving situations – wider instrument needles and higher-resolution dials allow driving information to be visualized in a highly detailed format. By contrast, the Gallery layout largely minimizes the driving information view to clear as much space as possible for widget content. For example, information on the media source currently being played, the map display or the interventions and action prompts of the driver assistance systems are presented in greater detail. In all three layouts, the driver can activate a “calm” mode, in which only the current vehicle speed, in digital form, is shown in the center of the information display. Color-coordinated, three-dimensional animations give each of the three layouts a distinctive character.
The new arrangement and structure of the widgets displays them horizontally, stretched across the control display. The widgets are lined up in a ribbon on the home screen. The content of the widgets is pared back to essential information and presented as a live image. Frequently used functions are shown in the widgets and can be activated by touch. Examples in the navigation widget include a button for changing the map view or selecting the most likely destination for route guidance. The phone widget has buttons for accepting/rejecting calls and frequently selected contacts. The driver is free to select widgets on the home screen and display them in any order. As with smart devices, the user can use a long press on a widget to select it for changes and move it around via drag & drop.
At the same time, widgets can change depending on the context using fluid graphics to show more or less information, as the situation demands. The standard widgets overview gives the navigation map a prominent position. If a navigation instruction is imminent during a journey – such as an upcoming turn – the map is enlarged to give the user a visual prompt and detailed orientation information.
Three views can be selected for the navigation map. In Adaptive mode, the driver can view relevant information along the route, and this is adjusted according to the driving situation. The presentation of information takes on a more focused form in Reduced mode. For example, here only the most frequently used points of interest are displayed. Expanded mode shows all available information on the vehicle’s current surroundings.
Like its predecessor, BMW iDrive 8 enables fast access by swiping downwards from the upper edge of the BMW Curved Display or by tilting the iDrive Controller upwards. The fast access menu contains shortcuts and frequently used functions. In addition, the user’s own shortcuts can be stored and edited via the same menu (the previous-generation iDrive system used physical shortcut buttons for this process). Radio stations, navigation destinations, phone numbers and links to submenus are among the preferences that can be set as a shortcut. In each case, the type of shortcut is visualized by a symbol in the digital fast access view, so the user can quickly find their way around.
Natural dialogue with the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant
The new generation of BMW iDrive also brings additional abilities for the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. For a more personal interaction, users can still give the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant a name of their choice, which they then use as a prompt. The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant has an important role to play in creating a natural dialogue between the user and their vehicle. The personal assistant is the central interaction interface with the user – the “face” of the in-car intelligence.
In communication between people, a great deal of information is conveyed non-verbally. The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant has thus been upgraded with a greater focus on how it is presented visually. This new visualization approach features spheres of light in differing sizes and brightness levels, giving the assistant more space and new ways of expressing itself. This visual image also gives it a “face” with a clearly visible point of focus and identifiable states of activity.
To also enable non-verbal communication with the vehicle occupants in the future, the user experience designers gave the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant a visual form that also allows it to display gestures. This was based on studies with test persons who were asked to answer selected questions non-verbally. Their movements were recorded, and patterns were established in how certain moods and activities were expressed. These patterns were carried over to the new geometry of the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant’s visual image with the help of insights from art, as used in the making of animated films. Visualizations were chosen from a selection of over 100 design approaches to be able help it express different emotions and states of mind non-verbally and in a human-like manner.
Advances have also been made in the functionality of the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. An expanded pool of data and information has not only made the digital assistant more intelligent, it has also enabled it to act more according to context. It can, take into account the situation in the vehicle and its external surroundings when considering how and when to communicate with those on board. And the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant can control functions such as climate control, ambient lighting, audio playback, opening and closing of the side windows, shading of the panoramic glass roof, switching between My Modes, the driver assistance systems and more. The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant also plays the role of vehicle expert by answers questions on operating functions, Check Control messages, driving history and vehicle characteristics. It also has access to information on points of interest such as restaurants, parking, shops and cultural institutions.
The personal assistant follows the shy tech principle of design in terms of how and where it is visible. When it is spoken to, it appears in a fluid animation on the relevant screen (information or center control) area and spreads out over the displays. The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant can distinguish who is talking to it. If the driver is actively engaged, the Intelligent Personal Assistant’s visual image appears in the right-hand area of the information display or in the BMW Head-Up Display and signals its readiness to accept spoken instructions. If prompted by the front passenger, the assistant’s image appears in the right-hand area of the BMW Curved Display, where it is easy to view for the front passenger. A widget designed especially for the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant enables rapid access to other settings and suggestions. For example, it may provide the user with tips on possible voice commands or unaccessed vehicle functions which may be helpful to the driver. Its interplay with the vehicle’s intelligence systems allows the personal assistant to manage complex tasks. The assistant can therefore not only operate a function on behalf of the driver, but also save them having to think about how to activate a particular function.
The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant will learn new functions and new forms of expression as the ongoing development of BMW iDrive continues. These new features are regularly imported into the vehicle by means of Remote Software Upgrade.
Greater personalization using the BMW ID
When interacting with the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant and using the new BMW iDrive 8, customers benefit from increased personalization of the user experience based on the BMW ID. Current BMW ConnectedDrive customers are able to use their existing credentials to access their BMW ID. In future, it will be possible to securely store more personalized settings in the BMW ID and transfer them between vehicles. A PIN code can be created for the BMW ID associated with a particular key to prevent other vehicle users from accessing personal data. Simply scanning a QR code is all it takes to create a new BMW ID on a smartphone. With the new My BMW App, which will be launching soon in the U.S. and replacing the former BMW Connected App, the existing BMW ID will be automatically imported into the car when the QR code is scanned.
This QR code method can be used to transfer the BMW ID securely into vehicles with BMW iDrive 8 or BMW iDrive 7. Once the BMW ID has been loaded, the driver will receive a personal greeting which will include the customized profile image that can be uploaded in the My BMW App. At the same time, personal settings for seat and steering wheel position, exterior mirrors, navigation system, driver assistance functions, display layouts, shortcuts and favorites as well as infotainment system settings will be imported automatically. Even personalized suggestions from the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant are stored in the BMW ID, together with individually selected wake words and privacy settings. Once the BMW ID has been activated with the associated key or by selecting the BMW ID function in the vehicle, the personal settings are instantly adopted.