BMWs Will Get a Conversational ‘Personal Assistant’ in 2019
Add “Hey BMW” to “Alexa,” “Hey Google,” and “Siri” to the list of wake words for personal voice assistants. Come spring 2019, BMW adds its Intelligent Personal Assistant to the mix. It’s part of BMW’s next drop of iDrive, version 7.0. BMW plans for the personal assistant to work not just inside BMWs, but also through your smartphone walking around, or via a smart speaker in the home, dorm room, or office.
BMW leads the auto industry in ways to interact with the car: touch screen, control wheel, touchpad/speller, gesture, buttons, and now expanded voice input. BMW says the Intelligent Personal Assistant “will be compatible with other digital voice assistants, thereby providing a link to other rapidly growing ecosystems.” BMW earlier this year tried to cap Siri’s rapidly growing ecosystem by setting an $ 80 a year fee to use Siri inside a BMW.
In addition to keeping Siri and Google Assistant at bay, BMW wants the Intelligent Personal Assistant to make the car easier to access. The company says the assistant will intuit each driver’s preferences and locations. You can give explicit directions such as “Hey, BMW, take me home” and the assistant knows where you live. BMW says the assistant also can determine things that even your long-time partner might now always get right. BMW says:
It is familiar with the vehicle’s functions and is able to operate them as required. Saying “Hey BMW, I’m cold” will prompt the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant to adjust the temperature inside the car accordingly. Whereas the current version is already able to memorize the preferred settings, ongoing improvement of the technology will enable it to learn more and more preferences and favorite settings. The assistant will improve with every command given, every question asked and every setting made. Forming the basis for all of this will be the portable, digital customer profile – the BMW ID – which links the car to the customer and their digital world.
BMW did not go into detail about how the assistant would improve. One assumes if you tell the car you’re cold and a five-degree jump in the cabin temperature is too much, it dials it back to +3 degrees.
Other examples of interaction with the assistant include:
Status info such as “Is the oil level okay?”
Owner’s manual substitute such as “How do automatic high beams work?”
Present and past alerts such as “The tire pressure is low” (although on current BMWs the information shows up instantly if you blow a tire) or “What warning messages do I have?” (in case you missed them).
En route services such as finding a gas station, where BMW adds an informal voice request to an existing service.
Information such as the name of any playing song (BMW didn’t say if it’s song pattern recognition, or pulling metadata) and telling the infotainment system, “Play classical music.”
Taking information from a calendar, reminding you of appointments, telling you when to leave if you’re driving, and — the favorite of any automaker — suggesting, setting up, and reminding you of service appointments (with BMW dealers, but not with independent service shops).
“Hey BMW” can be swapped and substituted with a name you prefer. BMW says there will be updated regularly to add features and functionality.
According to Dieter May, BMW’s senior VP for digital products, the assistant “creates a brand new, digital form of interaction with your BMW that redefines the whole driving experience.” BMW’s release added,
The Intelligent Personal Assistant will become available in a basic version in 23 languages and markets in March 2019. In the USA, Germany, UK, Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Brazil, Japan and (beginning in May 2019) China, the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant will feature more natural voice control along with further intelligent functions such as Point of Interest Search, Weather and Music, for example. The personal assistant will be offered for models featuring the new BMW iDrive 7.0 and as part of the Live Cockpit Professional.
Competitor Mercedes-Benz at CES 2018 announced a similar personal assistant called MBUX, for Mercedes-Benz User Experience.