Car Culture

BMW's apptastic future

BMW recently showed off efforts to expand its ConnectedDrive initiative, coming up with more app integration while at the same time testing faster connection speeds into the car. CNET takes a look at the future of BMW ConnectedDrive.

BMW iPhone calendar integration
BMW has added iPhone calendar integration to its cars equipped with ConnectedDrive. BMW

Last month we looked at how 10 automakers have integrated apps into their cars. Now BMW has reminded us of the rapid pace of technology development by showing off new features for its ConnectedDrive system, along with its future direction.

BMW's newest innovation for ConnectedDrive is the integration of the iPhone calendar app. With it, drivers will be able to call up the calendar on their BMW's center screen. It will show upcoming appointments, and even read out the details. This new feature ties in with BMW's position that its cars are designed for the busy executive.

iPhone calendar integration joins with existing apps, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pandora, all current features of ConnectedDrive.

BMW also talks up how it is opening up to third-party developers. While the company will doubtlessly maintain control over which apps are ultimately allowed in the car, it seems very aggressive about promoting new app integration. It showed Qype integration, which is essentially Yelp for Europe, and Wiki Local, an app that ties Wikipedia searches to nearby locations. Audi has already launched a version of Wiki Local in its A7 and A6 models. The MOG streaming-music service also looks to be high on BMW's list.

Currently, BMW's app efforts are only enabled on iPhone, but the company says it is expanding integration for Android, which should roll out next year.

As these apps rely on an open data connection, currently served through a smartphone, BMW has also been researching 4G (LTE) data connections. From the information it released, BMW seems to be serious about including a dedicated data connection in the car, similar to what Audi has done, although a dedicated data connection in the car would likely be market-specific. In Europe, BMW has tested its 4G in car connection to 70Mbps peak download speeds, with 23Mbps as an average in urban areas. These data speeds would allow many advanced features in the car.

With app integration, BMW, and other automakers, will be able to give current owners new features in their cars. Although there will be some obsolescence with older chips and LCDs, the apps can be kept fresh, letting a 5-year-old car have similar cabin tech as a new car. Because of that promise, app integration is likely to spread through the automotive market more rapidly than past technologies, such as GPS or Bluetooth.