The German manufacturer BMW is undoubtedly one of the great precursors of the integration of technologies embedded in cars. Since 1998 and the launch of its first connected services, it has introduced countless innovations to the market.
With Audi, Mercedes-Benz and more recently Tesla, BMW is one of the pioneers in the development of connected and autonomous cars. On several occasions, the Munich-based manufacturer was the first to introduce breakthrough technologies in Europe and sometimes even in the world. A look back at the highlights that marked the manufacturer's technological ascent before discovering its latest innovations on board its high-tech racing cars. On track !
The BMW 8 Series is one of the brand's most advanced models in terms of technologies available as standard or as options.
Key dates for the technological transition
With the help of the manufacturer, we went back to the end of the 90s and the very beginnings of the Internet to trace until today the key dates of its main innovations which contributed to the birth of the connected car and autonomous. The BMW group has indeed distinguished itself very early in the field of on-board intelligent connectivity with its BMW ConnectedDrive solution. It started offering its first connected services called BMW Assist and BMW Telematics from 1998. The offer included concierge services, updated traffic information, and intelligent emergency call. The connection then passed through the customer's telephone.
The German group is sparing no efforts either to develop the software part essential for the management of electronic control / command units (ECU) which proliferate in vehicles. It was thus the first in 2003 to create in partnership with Bosch, Daimler Chrysler, Volkswagen and Siemens the Autosar consortium (Automative open system architecture) with the aim of developing a standardized and open software architecture intended for ECU (Engine Control Unit) programming or engine control unit).
Joined since by all the actors of the automobile industry, the consortium made it possible to set up international specifications to structure the embedded software and to harmonize all the electronic architecture of the cars. Likewise, BMW with PSA and General Motors is behind the creation of the GENIVI Alliance consortium which has played a very important role in the development of standardized infotainment systems. BMW also offers one of the most advanced on-board systems on the market for voice commands thanks to a long-standing partnership with specialist Nuance known for its voice recognition software Dragon Drive.
ConnectedDrive / BMW central control wheel
The first digital services
From 2004, the manufacturer gradually equips its models with a factory integrated SIM card. A leap forward that allows customers to access new on-board services such as news dispatches, weather forecasts or even office functions via the BMW Online platform. In the same year, the manufacturer was still the first in Europe to integrate the Head up Display system into Serie 5. Inherited from fighter planes, this technology, launched a few years earlier in the United States by Chevrolet on the Corvette C5, projects important traffic information (speed, GPS navigation instructions, limitations, etc.) directly into the field. driver's vision.
This instrument, which considerably improves driving safety by allowing the driver to keep their eyes on the road, is now standard equipment at BMW. Four years later in 2008, BMW is still one of the first to introduce an Internet browser into the on-board computer of its flagship Series 7. If all this may seem trivial today, you have to realize that 'At the time, the infotainment systems of some manufacturers boiled down to a double DIN car radio with a black and white display.
BMW was the first to offer a head-up display in Europe / BMW
The electric conquest
Even though Toyota came far ahead of the electrification market, BMW has since largely caught up. From 2010, the manufacturer markets two models X6 and Series 7 "ActiveHybrid" incorporating its first simple hybrid powertrains. Three years later in 2013, he launched the small 100% electric BMW i3 city car, which has since been adopted by many police services around the world. Long before plug-in hybridization became THE motorization in vogue, it caused a sensation in 2014 with its spectacular BMW i8 PHEV roadster. This futuristic mass-produced racing car has a 3-cylinder 1.5-liter turbo petrol engine with 231 horsepower and an additional 143 hp (96 kW) electric unit. With its cumulative 374 hp, the i8 jumps from 0 to 100 km / h in 4.4 seconds and can run up to a maximum speed of 250 km / h. It can travel around 30 km up to 120 km / h without spending a drop of petrol.
After this demonstration, the group went to great lengths to develop its electrified range. In 2015, it launched three plug-in hybrid models BMW X5 xDrive40e, BMW 330e and BMW 225x. Models that are entering their third generation today with increasingly interesting performance. According to the manufacturer, its most efficient rechargeable models can now drive between 80 and 100 km in 100% electric mode. The latest BMW i3 offers a range of 300 km. With 13% of market share in Europe, BMW is the second largest manufacturer of electrified cars in Europe behind Tesla which trusts 17% of PDM.
The BMW i3 and i8 are the first two electric and rechargeable models to have been launched by the manufacturer / BMW
On the way to the autonomous car
During the last decade, the manufacturer has put the turbo on the development of driver assistance and automated driving technologies grouped under the name of BMW Personal CoPilot. In addition to an alliance with Audi and Daimler (Mercedes-Benz) with which he bought the Nokia HERE cartography so as not to be dependent on Google Maps, he has constantly multiplied strategic partnerships with big names in the high-tech sector , including Intel, Mobileye, Nvidia, Nuance, and even IBM. In 2006, a BMW 3 Series completed the Hockenheim circuit in autonomous mode!
The iNext / BMW autonomous roadster concept
From 2011, prototypes of automated cars were notably tested on the A9 motorway between Munich and Nuremberg, then on a Las Vegas motorway in 2014. Its series production of autonomous BMW models has accelerated since l inauguration in 2018 of the BMW Group Autonomous Driving Campus in Munich: a campus entirely dedicated to the development of autonomous cars with no less than 1,800 experts from around the world. Its constant commitment and huge investments in the development of autonomous cars are reflected today in the integration of new technologies and leading intelligent driving systems in many BMW models.
Final touches to the concept of electric and autonomous car Vision iNext / BMW
The race for innovation
Aside from Tesla, which has been doing this for a long time, BMW is one of the first manufacturers to offer remote updates (Over The Air) for its ConnectedDrive infotainment system. A major development that allows it to remotely push fixes or new services on its connected models. Without forgetting a mobile application associated with its vehicles among the most advanced on the market. In addition to numerous remote controls to turn on the headlights, honk your horn, turn on the ventilation, it includes the Digital Key service which allows you to access the vehicle via a smartphone.
Until autonomous cars may one day become a reality, the manufacturer is developing autonomous driving systems classified by level on a scale of 1 to 5: driving assistance, semi-automatic driving, highly automated driving, fully driving automated, and autonomous car. Currently, all BMWs incorporate level 1 systems. Among the most impressive are the Park Assist automatic parking system capable of parking the car in a parking space or in battle without any intervention from the driver (Series 8, X5, X6 and X7). Launched on the last 7 Series, the Level 2 Remote Control Parking system allows you to park the car remotely without a driver, via a dedicated command on the ignition key.
On the occasion of the launch of the last Series 1 in October 2019, BMW presented in its new Auto-Reverse system. Thanks to the cameras and the multiple sensors of the vehicle, the latter permanently records the last 50 meters traveled in forward gear (up to 35 km / h) so that they can then be carried out in total autonomy in reverse gear! A stunning system that allows you to get out of a narrow lane or dead end without having to touch the steering wheel. Introduced in 2018 on the BMW 8 Series and X5, Auto-Reverse is now deployed across the range. One step closer to highly automated driving …
The Auto-Reverse system takes control to make the last 50 meters traveled in autonomous mode / Jérôme Cartegini for Clubic
BMW Personal CoPilot systems also include numerous innovative functions to assist the driver on a daily basis. Active Stop & Go speed regulation, for example, adapts the speed as a function of the distance (previously configured) of the previous vehicle, while being able to brake automatically in an emergency in the event of a risk of collision on a motorway or in town. Some models like the 8 Series go even further with a level 2 semi-automated driving system. Able to take control of the steering wheel in place of the driver, it can brake or accelerate depending on the situation.
The whole range of BMW includes level 1 and 2 driving assistance / Jérôme Cartegini for Clubic
And tomorrow ?
If BMW is obviously not the only manufacturer to introduce new technologies, it is often one step ahead of most of its competitors. The manufacturer's objective is now to integrate highly automated level 3 systems in its vehicles from 2021. Concretely, this means that it will be possible, in certain situations (motorways, traffic jams …) driving assistants get behind the wheel.
A new step and a technological leap that promises to be fascinating. However, it will probably still have to wait many years before it can deploy fully automated level 4 systems. However, it is only after this last step has been completed that BMW and its partners can start to consider rolling one day their autonomous cars.