8 Cool Things: BMW iDrive 8

BMW IDrive8b

Twenty years since the introduction of iDrive in the E65-generation 7 Series, BMW has previewed the 8th-generation of its renowned infotainment system, which will debut in marque’s upcoming iX and i4 electric vehicles. Here is an octet, fittingly, of interesting facts about the new iDrive 8...

1. Expansive curved display

At the heart of iDrive 8, which is underpinned by a significantly upgraded software package aimed at improving the speed of command recognition, is a pair of screens – a 12.3-in instrument display and a 14.9-in infotainment touchscreen, which are housed in a single curved panel with a resolution of 200ppi. The display is mounted atop the dashboard and angled slightly towards the driver.

2. Reduces buttons, but retains iDrive controller 

iDrive 8 might be more touch-input-based than its predecessor, but BMW has persisted with the centre console-located rotary controller, which can be used in conjunction with touch inputs, voice commands and gesture controls. The adoption of iDrive 8 has also allowed the Munich-based firm to reduce the number of physical buttons by half (climate control functions, for example, are inputted digitally).

What’s more, the new iX features capacitive touch controls on its hexagonal-shaped steering wheel, a slider arrangement for gear selection (as opposed to a traditional transmission lever), as well as an updated head-up display unit that incorporates fresh graphics as well as new augmented reality functions.

3. New 3D-graphics & display modes

BMW has introduced an entirely new graphical design language, which is applied across iDrive 8’s menus and apps. The 3-dimensional graphics and layouts are said to bring a “more immersive user experience” and “greater detail” to the plethora of customised display modes that the driver/s can choose from.

The look is supposed to be as information-rich as possible, with a constantly changing flow of info shown in the centre of the digital instrument panel.

Apart from Efficient, Sport and Individual display modes, there is a Calm mode that allows the driver to reduce the amount of information to just the speed of the vehicle, Focus has been designed for what BMW calls “extremely dynamic driving situations,” while Gallery pairs back the level of information to the bare minimum, to prioritise space for apps, widgets and navigation. 

4. 'Call me whatever you like' 

You can still hail the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant with the “Hey BMW” voice command, but with the updated version of the voice-assistant software, users can give their “digital helper” a name of their choice; the system also makes use of visual prompts on the info displays when handling tasks. 

Lastly, all Intelligent Personal Assistant settings can be saved to a BMW ID profile, which has been expanded with better personalisation and functionality.

5. It anticipates where you’re going

Thanks to what BMW calls “Learning Navigation”, the onboard satnav system is no longer passive – in works in conjunction with the more in-depth BMW ID to predict where the driver may intend to travel. BMW’s example of where this may come in handy is during the daily commute. The car will predict that the driver wants to go to the office, but may want the navigation on anyway, to get a sense of traffic and so that they can be warned of any delays ahead. As such, the navigation system will automatically prepare the best route anyway. 

What’s more, Autocar reports that "the digital services for the navigation, parking and charging are now fully integrated into BMW’s cloud-based Map system. It uses probability models based on information provided by the widely used HERE map."

6. Higher personalisation 

iDrive 8 is not all about crisp graphics and slick functionality, however… The system also optimises the vehicle’s interior ambience and its user/s driving experience/s.

The new My Modes feature, which has replaced the current iDrive’s Drive Experience Control, can be used to alter up to 10 parameters, ranging from the colour of the interior ambient lighting and the weight of the steering to the graphics on the instruments and central touchscreen. 

7. It supports 5G

Meanwhile, the new system steps up over-the-air updates significantly, because iDrive8 supports 5G networking with high-data bandwidth for faster software updates.

In line with Volkswagen’s plans to adopt a data-based business model, BMW will allow for the live over-the-air retrofitting of functions. In other words, iDrive 8 will allow owners to upgrade selected functions of their vehicles after they've started using their vehicles. These will include lighting and driving assist systems (including semi-autonomous features) in markets where the technology is supported.

8. You get your own 'welcoming party'

Finally, cars with iDrive 8 will feature a new welcome/start-up programme, powered by ultra-wideband radio technology. The car senses when the driver is approaching the car by communicating with their key/smartphone. Then, when the driver is 3m away from the vehicle, the cabin will light up with soft exterior and interior lighting patterns. The door handles and boot handle illuminate too and, when the door is opened, the iDrive system starts up automatically.

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