If you're like me, you're terrified that autonomous cars will turn into yet another excuse to do work outside the office. Well, you don't even have to wait that long for the aforementioned dystopia to become a reality!
BMW announced on Wednesday three separate technologies that it hopes will fuel the next generation of connected cars from BMW Group. Connected+ builds upon BMW's current connected-car services. BMW ID brings a new level of personalization to not just one, but all connected BMWs. Finally, there's integration with Microsoft Exchange and Skype, which is the doom-and-gloom I was talking about earlier.
BMW calls Connected+ a "new era" of connected services, further strengthening the bridge between smartphones and cars. Basically, these services make driving and getting around more convenient.
The navigation system will be able to check your gasoline levels as you plot a route. It will let you know if you don't have the gas to make it all the way there, and it will suggest gas stations to add to your route, based on the vehicle's estimated range on the current tank. This can be done on the phone and sent over to the nav system wirelessly.
Another service will automatically send location and ETA to a pre-selected group, whether it's colleagues or friends. It can inform other parties when you've hit a delay. It could also be used for safety purposes, beaming information on a child's whereabouts to a concerned parent.
There's also a system that focuses on first-mile and last-mile navigation. It will give you the route from where you are, to your car, and on to your destination. Once you park the car, however far away from the destination, the system will tell you how to get there on foot. Those directions can be sent to your phone, so you won't have to memorize any maps or jot anything down.
Similar to what Cadillac is doing with the latest version of its CUE infotainment system, BMW intends to bring a serious degree of personalization to not just the owner's car, but whatever BMW Group car he or she commands.
The BMW ID is a vehicle-independent profile that exists in the cloud. It contains personalized vehicle settings -- such as preferred mobility methods, navigation routes and specific settings for the car itself.
Whenever a person with a BMW ID gets into a connected BMW and logs into his or her profile, all that information is transferred over to the vehicle. There's no need to wade through menus and tabs galore in order to set the car up the way a driver wants it. Just hook the car up to a BMW ID and that's all she wrote.
Microsoft Exchange and Skype for Business integration
Here's the one you're dreading. Yes, BMW is making it easier for you to do work in the car, whether you like it or not, whether it's distracting or not.
Starting this fall, BMW will offer secure in-car access to Microsoft Exchange email accounts. You'll be able to view and manage your emails and appointments in the car, and you can even compose emails using voice recognition. Good luck trying to come up with an excuse as to why you didn't send that email from the driver's seat (other than, you know, it's still a major distraction).
This integration can also do some neat things. It can import addresses from appointment entries, shoving them right into the navigation system. It can also identify and flag Skype meetings on your infotainment system, and all it takes is a touch of the iDrive controller to enter the meeting. No, there won't be a camera trained on your face, just the audio.
Pre-empting autonomy with connectivity
Instead of imagining what people will be able to do in autonomous cars, BMW is already getting ready for that eventuality. You may not like that the answer involves work, but it does, and it will, especially when passengers won't need to deal with vehicle controls at all.
We're not there quite yet, but instead of twiddling our thumbs in the first generation of autonomous cars while automakers work on giving us something to do, BMW is ready to spring out the gates at full speed. In the meantime, do your best to schedule meetings once you've already entered the office -- no need to overdo it.