BMW connects MINI drivers to social networks

BMW connects MINI drivers to social networks

Technology News |
BMW has a reputation for taking the lead when it comes to integrating fashionable consumer electronics functions and gadgets into its vehicles. In particular for its MINI brand, BMW engineers made great efforts to attract zeitgeisty customers. Now it shifted into the next gear on the road to its technophile clientele: It offers access to social networks during the ride.
By eeNews Europe

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The MINI engineers extended the MINI Connected App universe, allowing drivers to access new connectivity and entertainment functions. No surprise that the hardware equipment required to run these apps and take advantage of these functions is an Apple iPhone – BMW already had demonstrated its preference for this brand at earlier opportunities. Nevertheless, integration of further smartphone brands is under way, a spokesperson said.

To use the MINI Connected App, owners need to specify their MINI with the MINI Visual Boost radio or MINI navigation system, plus the MINI Connected option. Functions integrated into the car via iPhone can be operated using the joystick, the steering wheel buttons or the on-board monitor. The latest version of the MINI Connected App allows the latest functions to be transferred into the car, the vehicle company says.

Among the functions unique in the MINI segment are access to the Google local search and Google Send to Car services and reception of user-definable RSS news feeds, the content of which are displayed on the on-board monitor and can be read out using the optional voice output function. Added to which MINI enables the use of web-based social networks in the car. MINI Connected customers can receive Facebook and Twitter posts inside the car, display them on the on-board monitor and have them read out using the optional MINI Connected voice output function. In the same way, preformatted text messages can be sent out directly from the car using either service – for the sake of safety, drivers unfortunately have to content themselves with a selection of some 15 most-used phrases, a BMW spokesperson explained.

Another new feature, the Dynamic Music function, contains a selection of exclusively composed music which can be played back through the audio system of the MINI. These pieces of music, composed in real time during the ride, adapt their rhythm and dynamic flow according to the driving style. The driver can choose from a wide variety of tracks and genres using the on-board monitor and joystick. The desired sound is then modulated according to factors including the car’s longitudinal and lateral acceleration.

MINI Connected customers can also use an iPhone to activate the Mission Control function. Another feature of the new MINI Connected App, this service offers a further in-car entertainment option to make driving fun even more varied. Mission Control analyses numerous signals relating to the vehicle, the driving situation and the vehicle’s surroundings to provide the driver with relevant information and advice, all generated in dialogue form. These dialogues are based, among other things, on input regarding safety and comfort settings – ranging from a request that the driver and passengers buckle up their seat belts to instructions on the use of the air conditioning system – and also incorporate up-to-date information on driving conditions and the current status of the vehicle, such as the outside temperature and the amount of fuel in the tank.

The system’s pool of comments ensures variety in the interaction between the MINI and its driver, even when situations on the road recur on a daily basis. And now the MINI Connected App gives the Mission Control function’s repertoire two different angles. The range of advice can be varied by the driver as desired. The on-board technology assesses a variety of vehicle data during a journey, allowing tips to be passed on to drivers while they are at the wheel to help them reduce fuel consumption. The MINIMALISM Analyser also gives MINI drivers the option of swapping information with fellow owners to draw up an efficiency ranking list. The tips generated by Mission Control to promote an extremely efficiency-focused driving style take an entertaining route to helping drivers improve their position on the MINIMALISM Ranking list.

But how does this all match with BMW’s much invoked safety philosophy? A core ingredient of this philosophy always was avoiding elements that could cause drivers distraction. Here’s the answer: Selecting those Twitter and Facebook text modules from a list and listening to the advice from the vehicle’s electronics does not distract the driver more than operating its navigation system, the BMW spokesperson asserted. We take the liberty to remain a little bit skeptical.

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