Johannesburg - Want to know where the nearest McDonalds is, or remotely get the heater in your car going before you leave home, or avoid traffic jams on your way to work?
Come July 1 and all these possibilities can become realities for buyers of new BMW cars in South Africa. Under the carmaker’s ConnectedDrive umbrella, several new online and data services will be available to customers.
The new technology is facilitated through a Vodafone simcard embedded in cars at the production phase. This means that – excepting the X1 and Z4 ranges – every new BMW will leave the factory with this simcard installed.
For BMW 5, 6 and 7 Series and X5 and X6 ranges, activating it is free and standard; while buyers of other ranges will have to shell out R4 500 to get it running for three years.
From this point onwards you get access to a myriad of additional services. Some of these carry subscription costs, some are free.
Worth noting, though, is that once you’re signed up there are no additional call or data costs – and in the same vein the simcard cannot be used for private calls, or removed from the car.
The tech is both affordable and exciting in terms of its functionality – but is entirely subject to network coverage. The technology itself works, though, and we reckon is a milestone for the local car buyer.
Here are the services available:
This is a no-cost feature which through the simcard allows you access to BMW Online, where you will find various free apps – including web radio, Wiki Local, Facebook, Stitcher – among many others.
Intelligent Emergency Call with automatic vehicle location
This allows the car to automatically call and send its co-ordinates to a call-centre, requesting assistance. The triggers for the car to make the call are numerous, for instance deployed airbags. Details of the vehicle model and all the data gathered by the sensors in the car will be relayed too, while the deployment of the car’s restraint systems will provide an idea of the number of passengers. The car patches you into an actual call centre, meaning that if you’re conscious you can talk to an agent. The call centre is based in Berlin, and will then relay the information to BMW on-call in SA for action. This is a no-cost option, the calls are free, and there’s a button in the car which can trigger a manual call to the help desk if need be.
Real Time Traffic Information (RTTI)
As the name implies, this R1 900 option (for a three-year subscription, standard in 6 and 7 Series cars) warns of traffic jams in real-time and will divert you where necessary. It works on all roads countrywide, and works off various info sources including GPS data from fleets, local authority traffic management systems, and the Altech-Netstar network – to name a few.
Think of this as the car’s guardian angel, which keeps an eye on service data. Your car will register a call to a dealer when a service is due, or it detects maintenance is needed. It will even determine what type of service is required and when. There’s also the option for manual calls to be made for advice, bookings, or in the case of a breakdown. The automatic transfer of data to the BMW Service Partner means the driver no longer has to keep an eye on when the next service is due. BMW Teleservices is a no-cost option, and will be fitted standard in the applicable ranges.
Want to talk to your Beemer? Here you go. Your Apple or Android smartphone will now ask your jammy to flash its indicators in a crowded parking lot, double-check that you locked it when you parked, or even get the climate control going for you. The only catch is that you have to be within a 1.5km radius of the car. Yours for R650, but it’s free and standard to 6 and 7 Series buyers.
BMW Internet Services
Spend R1 300 for a year’s subscription (free to 6 and 7 Series buyers), and you can browse the net in traffic or when you’re trying to kill time. The browser will work at speeds of under 7km/h and data is unlimited, but be warned – any type of video streaming is blocked.
BMW Concierge Services
Think of this as Jeeves-on-line. For R3 200 for a three-year sub (6 and 7 Series buyers are sorted upfront), you get free and unlimited calls to a centralised 24-hour BMW call centre, with an agent on hand to help you with anything from booking restaurant tables to finding you the nearest ATM.
The agent can even beam a map directly to your car’s satnav, or check flight departure times for you. -Star Motoring