BMW iDrive 8 infotainment gets AI, natural language recognition and a ‘face’

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We were pleased with the way BMW updated their iDrive 7.0 last year, calling it one of the best interfaces in the industry and scoring it above the Mercedes MBUX and Audi MMI. Well, BMW just updated it again and iDrive 8.0 is said to have been designed with voice recognition, natural language processing and personalization in mind.

A new graphical interface presents information in highly customizable ways, but default views tailor it to how much data you want – probably a good thing with today’s information-overloaded devices. For example, vehicle information can be displayed in three layouts called Focus, Drive and Gallery, each with an increasing number of stats thrown at your eyes. And if it all gets too much, a “calm” feature minimizes it all to display only vehicle speed. Likewise, the navigation system has Reduced, Adaptive and Expanded modes, depending on how busy you want the map to be.

The BMW Personal Assistant now understands the natural dialogue, so you don’t have to feel like you’re talking to a robot. In fact, BMW says it even gives the assistant a face – an abstract group of floating circles – to provide “a clearly visible point of focus and identifiable states of activity.” This face can even show you gestures and non-verbal signals to indicate that it is doing something. BMW says it “expresses different emotions and states of mind non-verbally and in a human way”. It even answers questions about vehicle functions and tells you where the nearest taco joint is.

The BMW ID system, which remembers your seating positions, safety monitor levels and infotainment settings, can now be transferred via BMW’s network to other iDrive 8.0 or 7.0. It is also said to be more intelligent, learning your behavior and adapting to your habits the more you use the car.

All of this is to say that it will use more AI, collected from you, as well as from other cars in the BMW Group fleet. BMW’s cloud will help the system to improve functions such as maps, but will also sort out sentences in natural language. Since even climate control is controlled by AI, you can say, “My feet are cold.” and BMW’s assistant increases heat to the vents in the footwell.

Over-the-air updates will also be available on iDrive 8.0, in addition to what BMW says is a more comprehensive integration of third-party apps. And, like Audi, the new system activates a choreographed little light show as you approach and exit the car. 5G connectivity is available depending on the region.

The latest iDrive will be introduced in the upcoming BMW iX and i4 EVs. They get a curved glass display that combines the 12.3-inch information display and the 14.9-inch control display in one. We’ll have to see if it still leads the way when we test one of our driveways again.

See the BMW press release for a comprehensive overview of the functions of iDrive 8.0.

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