GREEN SPECIAL: Demystifying the EV dashboard
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The transition to Electric Vehicles (EVs) isn’t just about what powers a vehicle. It’s also an opportunity for carmakers to rethink every aspect of occupant interaction with the car – especially the dashboard and operating systems.
BMW’s eighth-generation iDrive has been designed specifically for these new-tech vehicles. It will make its debut in two Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), the iX and i4.
In fact, BMW says the iX was designed “from the inside out”. The BMW Curved Display groups various functions together across 12.3 and 14.9-inch screens, echoing BMW’s traditional driver-oriented cockpit architecture. “Pre-filtering” ensures a clean look as only the relevant information for the driving situation is presented to the driver.
The main instrument cluster can be customised with function keys on the steering wheel, with three main layout types (Drive, Focus or Gallery) and a variety of widgets. The media player has a minimalist look but also helps the atmosphere of the track currently playing fill the cabin: an algorithm selects a cover colour and reproduces it across the display area.
Control clusters for frequently used functions are grouped together where drivers of current BMW models would expect to find them, but touch and voice-control functions also mean that the number of buttons has been cut in half.
The Intelligent Personal Assistant has been a part of BMW models for many years now, but in iDrive 8 there’s more of an emphasis on a “personal connection”, says BMW.
The new Assistant is designed around a “shy tech” principle, making it less intrusive while still providing the relevant information. It can distinguish who’s talking it, which is reflected on the screen area chosen for the display, and can be accessed more quickly through a dedicated widget.
It has greater ability to adjust to individual routines and relies more on non-verbal communication, with graphics and colours also used to indicative various levels of Assistant activity.
New-gen BMW vehicles will also feature Great Entrance Moments, which means the drive experience starts even before you enter the car. Using Ultra-WideBand (UWB) radio technology, the vehicle knows exactly where the key or driver-smartphone is to within a few centimetres, and will “wake up” as they approach with gradually intensifying lighting. The vehicle shows the way to the door with a “light carpet” and the door handles and bootlid are illuminated. Doors unlock automatically and seat/steering wheel heating can be activated. A welcome animation starts on the screens to show that the vehicle is getting ready.
The system’s intelligence extends to the climate control, which should not need to be adjusted by the occupants once the vehicle has learned individual preferences. Each further adjustment is registered and stored against the relevant BMW ID, so they do not have to be made manually again. The air conditioning automatically takes into account the number of occupants, where they are sitting and the direction of the sunlight.
It’s all a long way from the first BMW iDrive system introduced 20 years ago – revolutionary for the automotive industry at the time, but essentially just a rotary controller and a screen. There’s still a touch of the very familiar in BMW’s new BEV models; the iX retains a circular iDrive controller, in glass-effect finish with a bezel painted in Gold Bronze.