The 2018 Mobile World Congress (MWC) just wrapped up in Barcelona, Spain, on March 1. BMW was there to share its priorities of connectivity and autonomous driving, and show how the company is working on integration of smartphones with BMW Group vehicles. Some of the technology and features presented by BMW probably will not show up in production cars until the BMW iNext appears in 2021, but the company did show off a thing or two that normal users like us might find interesting in the near future.
Everyone knows that seamless connectivity is critical for Level 5 autonomous driving; that’s the capability of a vehicle to receive a destination, and then drive the passenger to that destination safely, in a timely manner, with no further human input. The obstacles to Level 5 autonomous driving are many, but once those obstacles are overcome, BMW will be ready with a Level 5 car.
To demonstrate how far the company has come in integrating autonomous capability, BMW took the opportunity at the Mobile World Congress to provide highly autonomous rides at the outdoor section of the BMW stand using BMW i3 electric vehicles. BMW also presented its progress on integrating an eSIM that will allow users to add their vehicles to the user’s existing mobile-phone contract. For some time, all new BMWs have been delivered with SIM cards that allow the vehicle to access wireless communications systems—but the available functions have been rather limited compared to what the average smartphone can really do. With an eSIM, the car essentially becomes another smartphone that can provide the user a wide and ever-increasing variety of functions.
No wonder the cars need to drive themselves.
BMW chose the Mobile World Congress to preview a new smartphone function that is coming later this year. (Well, it’s new for BMW, anyway.) When it is released, BMW’s Digital Key will allow drivers to unlock their BMW Group vehicles with their smartphones. (We assume BMW will also provide some sort of manual backup in case the driver’s phone is lost or runs out of electrons. Naah, that could never happen!) BMW will issue owners up to five copies of their BMW Digital Key so that they can share it with other users in whom they have complete trust that nothing will happen to their beloved Bimmer while in their care. Uh-huh. Ferris Bueller wants to borrow your phone.
Depending on how well BMW and the smartphone manufacturers work together, part of your future smartphone buying experience may include how well your phone integrates with your BMW or Mini. Or your Rolls-Royce, if you have one.—Scott Blazey
[Photos courtesy of BMW AG.]