A recent announcement from BMW revealed that the German marque’s forthcoming plans for the cockpit gadgets in their 2014 models. The Connected Drive feature will receive a major upgrade within the next 12 months and will be compatible with voice command features of Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy mobile devices.
By providing future BMW buyers of the 2014 models who opt for the optional ConnectedDrive trim, these drivers will be able to perform a number of voice activated functions on their smartphones without needing to remove their hands from the steering wheel.
The typical functions that a driver might need from their smartphone whilst travelling include requesting directions, playing music, making a phone call, sending a message and a myriad of other capabilities that these devices are able to perform through voice control.
The innovative add-on is a clear signal that the company is focused on improving driver safety, as well as user experience, by removing the need to handle your smartphone if you require access to applications whilst driving, keeping your eyes and hands firmly focused on controlling the vehicle.
How Voice Activation Works in 2014 Models
The voice control function will be connected through an updated version of iDrive (BMW’s on-board computer system) and activated by holding down the iDrive button, located on the steering wheel.
The car’s display will present a Siri-esque microphone symbol to signify when the car is ready to receive your voice command. Using the same operators as you would when asking your phone to perform an action, the car will pass on your command to the paired device – acting almost like a hands free microphone extension.
In addition to the smartphone facility, the future version of iDrive will also feature a collection of in-car apps that provide entertainment, such as Audible and Rhapsody, in addition to navigational updates with apps like Glypse – a live location sharing service. These apps will be activated at the click of the iDrive button rather than holding it down.
Development of Smartphone Connectivity
BMW is not the first to offer connectivity with Siri via the on-board computer system. In fact, Mercedes are the early providers of this feature with their new 2013 A-Class:
On the other hand, BMW are the first to unleash this connectivity across their entire range of 2014 models but only as an optional extra to those who purchase the ConnectedDrive trim.
A Potential Threat to Navigation Companies
The growth in popularity of voice command connectivity is sure to become a common feature offered by all car manufacturers, especially to the UK market where driving whilst handling/ operating a device (even a Sat Nav) is against the law.
This does unfortunately pose a threat to the original producers of satellite navigation systems as Google Maps continues to grow in usage and is one of the most popular navigation apps used on smartphones, putting companies like TomTom and Garmin under further pressure.
Expected Supporting Models of Updated iDrive
Amongst the most anticipated BMW models to look out for in 2014, the most-likely to support Siri and Svoice will include the new 4 Series range (due for release at the end of 2013/ start of 2014), the updated version of the X5 (available to buy early 2014), and the Concept Active Tourer (date tbc).
BMW was one of the eight manufacturers in 2012 who vowed to support Siri Eyes-Free to improve the road safety of drivers who require the use of an iPhone whilst driving.