Our editor, quite a dinosaur when it comes to dashboard gadgetry, sank his teeth into BMW’s ConnectedDrive and chewed on it.
There might be “chatline” opportunities for lonesome folks driving on lonely roads.
CLAMSHELL handphone. I was one of the very last journos in Singapore Press Holdings (and probably the whole of Singapore) to use one of those. It serves its two key functions well – make/take GSM telephone calls and send/receive SMS. It’s light yet solid, black and sleek, cheap and good. But it’s stupid compared to today’s smartphones. After all, it could only handle calls and messages. My first smartphone can do a lot more than that, thanks to its Internet connectivity, camera capabilities and all the apps I need to be a better worker/ writer. My second smartphone is even smarter than my first, with even more applications and functions – helping me to “apply” myself to my work, and to “function” more eff ectively as a motoring writer. Considering how long it took for me to upgrade from “stupidphone” to smartphone, I was unlikely to become a power user behind the wheel of BMW’s ConnectedDrive demo car, a 528i, in a matter of days.
This car’s ConnectedDrive put a ton of useful information and a “worldwide web” of entertainment at his fingertips
To improve my chances, I went to speed-read recent digital issues of HWM, spent hours browsing the App Store like a mad “storeman”, and tried to socialise on social media by chatting “face to face” with my best Facebook friends. I was ready to be “So Connected, You’re Free” (BMW’s tag line). Free, too, is ConnectedDrive, for the first 36 months with every brand new, offi cially imported BMW that has the factory-fitted system/service (it cannot be retrofitted, and certain models do not off er the complete gadget, including the 116i and 218i).
After the complimentary period, the 3G-based ConnectedDrive subscription will cost about $450 per annum. The killer app is Concierge Service. It’s a 24/7 “personal assistant” (the team is based in Manila) who can provide practical advice to the driver or passenger. The queries can be as simple as “nearest DBS ATM” or as complicated as “cheapest German restaurant with delicious pork knuckle” – the polite concierge on the line will assist as much as he/she can, but the harder the query (for the person to Google, perhaps), the longer you’ll have to be put on hold.
HWM helped this analogue dinosaur to sink his teeth into advanced telematics without biting off more than he could chew.
Yes, the voice on the line could belong to a man or a woman, so there might be “chatline” opportunities for lonesome folks driving on lonely roads, listening to Elvis’ Are You Lonesome Tonight? in their personal playlist. ConnectedDrive is also ready for other popular music apps – with or without emo songs “for all the lonely people thinking that life has passed them by”. Of course, the in-car Concierge Service is not meant for “1900” chats, and it’s just one of several great features. Another is RTTI – Real Time Traffi c Information. A telematics first for Singapore, the RTTI server in Germany collates/aggregates raw traffi c data from the Land Transport Authority (via a third-party vendor) and pushes the processed info to ConnectedDrive BMWs here.
The well-informed “traffi c warden” updates on the traffi c situation ahead (using colourcoded roads on the display), calculates expected delays and recommends alternative routes. Roadworks, detours, accidents and rush-hour bottlenecks are all factored in. Equally useful are the BMWspecific vehicle apps parked under ConnectedDrive, which include live news reports (read out “by” the audio system), weather forecasts and e-mail (receive/view/reply). There’s also a crash-proof SOS button diagonally above the rear view mirror to notify the BMW call centre of an emergency. Trained personnel would respond to the SOS and activate rescue/ fire/ambulance services. If there’s no response from the driver, the call centre will activate emergency services and facilitate the “save” by giving the BMW’s location, status and description. The full ConnectedDrive suite is currently compatible with Apple iPhones, and will connect fully with Android smartphones by the end of this year.