Automotive technology has come of age. Of course, building advanced features into our vehicles is nothing new. Nor is being captivated by what might come next. Whether it's the freeways of Bel Geddes' Futurama or the impressive array of features KITT showed over four seasons of Knight Rider, cars have a way of capturing our imagination like nothing else can.
photos: https://www.fastcodesign.com/ and http://www.influx.co.uk/
But something's changed.
When BMW says it will produce an autonomous iNext electric car within five years, it's not hope talking. It's expectation. Reality. These aren't utopian dreams any more. They're not neat ideas from sci-fi films we'll spend the next 50 years inching closer towards. This is what we can actually do; BMW is just one of many manufacturers who already offer intelligent cruise control and park assist in a range of production models, the first step towards fully self-driving vehicles.
Automated driving may be the technology that's making the headlines, but there have been many more advances in recent years aimed at improving our in-car experience.
Powered by smartphones
Not so long ago, the only connectivity offered by the typical car's center console was a radio, in one form or another. The development of console command systems like the iDrive, however, is changing the way we think about being in our cars. Whether for entertainment, navigation or vehicle feature control, computers have now established a place for themselves on our dashboards.
For many, though, this computer is actually their smartphone, in a cradle mounted on the dash. And why not? It's not an elegant solution, but it gets all the apps we love into our cars, which in-built console computers often can't match. It's no surprise, then, that increased integration between mobile devices and in-car computers is a top priority.
Apple's CarPlay and Google's Android Auto are two emerging standards that look like revolutionizing what we do behind the wheel. Both will allow us to connect our phones to the head unit in our cars, and use familiar mobile functions and apps. Protocols like AirPlay and Miracast mean wireless streaming and mirroring is also possible for many mobile devices, to replicate the smartphone or tablet screen on the dashboard display in real time.
This is the infrastructure that already lets us combine the power of our smartphones (not to mention their vast app ecosystems) with the convenience of an in-built head unit. As these standards develop, our cars' multimedia capabilities will only increase.
A safer tomorrow
Smartphone integration isn't the only way our cars are becoming more connected, though. Voice recognition, automatic door unlocking and over-the-air software updates are already a reality for many car owners. The capabilities of our cars won't stop there, though.
Several brands used CES 2016 to show off the latest automotive tech. Harman made a splash by revealing a system that can measure a driver's tiredness by monitoring pupil dilation, before communicating with the vehicle's other safety features to adapt to the driver's state. Smart cars are about more than just convenience—safety is a key consideration, too.
Meanwhile, BMW presented an i8 without mirrors. Instead, four cameras installed on the vehicle displayed an image on an LCD screen hanging where a standard rearview mirror would. The rationale, again, was safety; this system gave a clearer view of what was around and behind the car, whilst eliminating blind spots.
Toyota, on the other hand, looked beyond the car itself. It outlined a plan to improve mapping data by collecting information from the cameras and GPS devices in the cars we drive every day. This data will then be used to ensure that their vehicles have an up-to-date picture of the street layout, so automated driving and navigation should be more reliable. Toyota hopes that this 'crowd-sourcing' method will prove more efficient than depending on dedicated mapping vehicles.
As once-rare features like backup cameras and park distance control have since become mainstream, expect to see these advanced options available in more cars in future.
Capability is king
When it comes to automotive technology, the focus was once on performance. The sheer joy of driving. But now, multimedia capabilities and safety features are just as important for many motorists. This will no doubt be a key area for innovation in the coming years.
And how do you feel about it? Do you long for the simpler times when cars were all about the mechanics? Or are you excited about the prospect of driving increasingly intelligent vehicles? Let us know in the comments.
Last month we announced the first BimmerTech Photo Contest. The challenge: to send us a photo of your BMW in a spectacular location. We received so many submissions that it was tough to choose the winners. After much discussion the jury was still gridlocked. Eventually our marketing team took matters into their own hands and made a decision, awarding Malcolm’s photo of his BMW E90 in the Alps, Jay and his BMW X1 on the Australian coast and Gary and his F30 in Hong Kong. The winners received free coding, map updates and great discounts on our products.
Check out some of our other fabulous submissions:
See you next year for the second edition of the BimmerTech Photo Contest!
If there’s anything we all share – it’s a love affair with BMW! And there are as many reasons to love our cars as there are BMW owners.
We used Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to share our top 3 reasons with you:
1) There are no bad roads – only opportunities for new driving adventures.
2) It looks good EVERYWHERE.
3) The BMW slogan couldn't be more true. It really is the Ultimate Driving Machine, especially with the BimmerTech upgrades ;)
The responses we got back showed us just how head over heels you are! We hope you enjoy reading these as much as we did.
Some of you value unquestioning obedience:
No matter how I handle her, she never says NO!
Others enjoy the grandeur of a premium driving experience:
Driving a BMW makes you feel like you’ve conquered the world!
Thanks to BimmerTech, my BMW 530d M Sport drives and looks like a Tornado fighter jet.
One reminisced about a past romantic encounter:
I parked up at the beach with my fiancé. The next thing we knew, the police were shining their flashlights in at us. They laughed it off in good spirits, even gave their siren a wale as they left for extra embarrassment. They said they only noticed because the halos were on but the car looked parked. Tip to BMW drivers, if the key is still in – the halos stay on. I found this out the hard way.
Many just couldn’t feel any closer to their cars:
Just like the unspoken love shared between father and child. The love I feel when I start my F80 is indescribable. The worst drive home is still better than a good day at work. Your car is the only girlfriend you can love without your wife getting mad (maybe just a little jealous). BimmerTech loves your car like you do.
Beautiful, slim and curvy … the way the seat hugs me and the way I grip the wheel...it’s breath-taking! Here are some reasons why I love my BMW.
1. It’s a different experience driving a bimmer; switched from a Mercedes to an Inifinity to a BMW. Once you go BMW, you won’t go back.
2. It’s a great ride; as the slogan says, it’s the ultimate driving machine.
3. The ladies love them.
4. It goes "broom, broom".
5. My daughter thinks it’s the best car she’s been in; I have to agree with her on this one.
Here's to the love between man and machine!
Many BMW owners love the fact that they can add some of the latest navigation, audio, camera, Bluetooth, and Internet technologies to their BMW cars with an easy retrofit kit from BimmerTech. No longer are they limited to only factory-installed features. With some basic skills and tools, they can now do most of the aftermarket upgrades themselves — and BimmerTech is here to help.
So, what does it take to do a Do It Yourself (DIY) BMW retrofit? That’s one of our most frequently asked questions, so we thought we’d take a minute and answer it here.
First off, every one of our BMW add-ons is different and requires a varying skill level. If you’ve done any kind of upgrades to your car yourself, you will be able to take on a BimmerTech kit with ease. If you’re just beginning, but are pretty good at DIY, you should be fine — especially because we provide documentation and our super-responsive tech team is on-hand to walk you through your project if you need. And what if you just don’t have that mechanical touch (or the time), but still want to save money with a BimmerTech BMW retrofit kit? Our worldwide network of installers is at your service. After shipping the kit to you, just let us know the local installer of your choice and we’ll work with them to do any remote programming or activation. Dealer-quality or higher — for less! And if we don’t have an installer near you or you just want to use your favorite local audio shop? No problem. They will easily be able to install our kits and we’re happy to guide them if necessary.
Okay, back to what it takes for you to install a BimmerTech upgrade. Our easiest retrofits are software upgrades, like for adding Sirius Radio or BMW Apps, enhancing Bluetooth capability, or upgrading USB functionality. They don’t require any tools or hardware except an Internet-connected Windows laptop or MacBook running Windows. You plug in your computer and we take care of the rest remotely and via Skype, usually in about 20 minutes.
Upgrades like adding a rear view camera, Combox, or navigation require some hardware installation and sometimes a software upgrade or activation (again, which we do remotely). As mentioned, we provide instructions and support as needed to make sure your experience is a good one. Most of our upgrades are plug and play, meaning there are no wires to cut and when called for, we use easy OEM tap-in connectors (the same kind BMW uses) to make installation a snap. Others might require opening a panel, removing trim, or threading some wires from here to there, but it doesn’t get much more complicated than that.