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BMW wants to make you FEEL THINGS with its new AI assistant

It's all about emotional connection

BMW wants to make you FEEL THINGS with its new AI assistant


Matthew Beedham
Story by

Matthew Beedham

Editor, SHIFT by TNW

Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls. Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls.

When the world finally comes to an end in a big ball of fire, I’m confident that people will still say BMW’s iDrive infotainment system is the best there is.

However, BMW isn’t going to rest on its laurels. To maintain its position as a leader in infotainment tech, it’s adding a bunch of new super techy features to the iDrive system that will be fitted to the iX and i4 electric vehicles.

The iDrive 8 system uses natural language processing, gesture control, and machine learning to supposedly connect the vehicle and driver in more intuitive, personal, and emotional ways.

car, bmw, ix, i4, next
Credit: BMW
Cars have always made us emotional, how they sound, look, and drive hits primordial parts of us. Now with tech, it can tickle our feelings in new ways.

The most techy feature of all is the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, a kind of AI human that lives in the dashboard to help with all tasks related to driving. It can control the AC, music, heating, ambient lighting, and driving modes, automatically or with driver input.

In fact, if you tell it your feet are cold, BMW says the intelligent assistant will respond by turning the heat up in the footwell.

According to BMW, drivers will also be able to give the assistant a name of their choosing. Yes, you can call it Kitt, or Hal, if that’s your thing. Apparently, it’s going to have a face too. Seriously, here’s what Beamer says:

The new visualization approach for the assistant features spheres of light in differing sizes and brightness levels, giving it more space and new ways of expressing itself. This visual image also gives it a “face” with a clearly visible point of focus and identifiable states of activity via gestures.

The German carmaker says the new assistant is so intelligent thanks to the underlying data and information it’s been built on. This allows it to respond to, and communicate with the drivers, based on context.

Presumably, it’ll scream at you if you’re about to crash into a tree. Or it will pleasantly oblige when you ask it to cue up Dire Straits as you hit the highway, complimenting you on your great taste in music as you go.

car, bmw, idrive
Credit: BMW
BMW’s new iDrive 8 will respond to all kinds of commands. Tell it your feet are cold and it’ll heat up the footwell.

In reality, the system will take into account driving conditions before it attempts to engage with passengers, expect it to stay quiet at busy intersections, and speak up when it’s safe to do so. It will also crank up the AC when it’s hot outside, or turn up the heat when it’s cold.

The real godsend

Super high-tech, almost sentient cars of course sound great, but my favorite feature by far is something called “BMW ID.”

Put simply, BMW ID allows drivers to personalize their car and then take those settings with them to other compatible vehicles.

This means that you can load your preferences on to loaner vehicles, or have multiple users for the same car. Each driver can load their own profile before setting off to ensure their driving experience is exactly how they like it.

If you’ve ever had to share a car, you’ll know this is an absolute godsend.

bmw, rotary, car future,
Credit: BMW
Even though BMW thinks the future of infotainment systems is fewer switches, it is keeping the famed rotary dial. Thank you, BMW.

It sure sounds like BMW’s next generation iDrive is throwing the gauntlet of who has the best infotainment system down to its competitors.

One of the biggest challenges is likely not to come from an automotive brand, but from search giant Google.

Google’s Android Automotive is already available in the Polestar 2 — I can say first hand that it’s great, it just simply works. The transition from phone to car and back again is neat and superior to every other system I’ve used.

However, Android Automotive isn’t tied to any single carmaker. Google and Ford have reportedly teamed up to bring the platform to millions of cars, and will start integrating it in 2023.

It’s going to be far more accessible than BMW’s more premium offering.

While the Android experience will no doubt appeal to many, especially those using Android phones. I expect BMW’s system to feel decidedly more polished, and well, just special.

I’ll probably fall in love with it even more when I can give it its own name, and it can whisper sweet nothings into my ear on our long late night drives.


Do EVs excite your electrons? Do ebikes get your wheels spinning? Do self-driving cars get you all charged up? 

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