Web on wheels from BMW - TechCentral

Web on wheels from BMW


BMW South Africa has taken the wraps off a set of Internet-connected services built into the company’s vehicles that provide a range of value-added services.

At the heart of the technology is an embedded Vodafone Sim card, with global roaming enabled, and which is used for data services.

ConnectedDrive will be embedded in every vehicle rolling off BMW’s manufacturing floor from July 2014, but the associated services will only be available in South Africa in July 2015.

BMW’s ConnectedDrive first appeared in 2007, when the company announced iPhone integration with its range of vehicles. It went on to launch apps for its in-car technology in 2011.

The German car maker says that it plans to have around 5m BMW cars worldwide linked up with ConnectedDrive by 2017.

“ConnectedDrive will be optional to all customers, and they can choose which of the mobility services they would like to take advantage of,” says BMW South Africa manager for group automotive communications Edward Makwana.

The services will be linked to the car, not the driver, so when a vehicle is sold, the services will not be transferred with it.

ConnectedDrive’s services will be accessible via an online portal. The system can be set up for anything from receiving the driver’s e-mail to booking the car in for a service.

One of the more interesting features is “intelligent emergency call”, which automatically notifies emergency services via BMW’s call centre when the car is involved in an accident. The voice call is made over the car’s data connection and puts the driver in contact with a call centre in Germany. The operator can then determine the nature and severity of the accident. Critical data such as the car’s location is uploaded to the operator, who then gets the relevant emergency services in South Africa to respond.

Each car also has an emergency button, which allows the driver to manually call emergency services. This will be a standard feature in all BMW vehicles ordered from July 2014.


Another feature is “real-time traffic information”, which is used in conjunction with the car’s built-in navigation system. It uses traffic data supplied by Altech Netstar. This add-on service displays real-time traffic data and routes GPS navigation accordingly. It will be available at a cost of R1 900 for three years, and is standard with the BMW 6 and 7 Series.

“BMW Internet services”, meanwhile, is an optional service that allows the driver to access the Internet via the in-car display. Navigation is done via the central iDrive Controller and text input is handled by a rotary-style keyboard. Alternatively, the driver can simply use a new touchpad built into the iDrive controller to write out each letter with their finger (it works suprisingly well — see picture above).

This service will cost R1 300/year and, like real-time traffic, is standard on 6 Series and 7 Series vehicles. Data usage is unlimited, but it does not stream video.

Lastly, BMW plans to offer concierge services, including access to its 24-hour call centre, which will allow users to get access to services such as restaurant bookings or quick directions to the nearest pharmacy.

Concierge services will cost R3 200 for three years and, once again, come standard with the 6 Series and 7 Series.

“Vodafone has roaming agreements in each of our regions where this technology will be available,” says BMW South Africa manager for group automotive communications Edward Makwana. Data on the Sim cards is unlimited and comes at no extra cost to the customer.”  — © 2014 NewsCentral Media

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