BMW is about to make one of the biggest changes to its in-car driving and entertainment system, but you might not notice straight away. The iDrive system first launched in 2001 and has progressed from a simple way to control a Sat Nav and radio, to a fully functioning control centre for all of your driving, safety and entertainment needs.
All previous versions have run on a Linux system but at this year's CES show alongside the new BMW I Vision Dee concept, they revealed that new models from 2023 will run on Android. This will be combined with a visual update to the interface that is both cleaner and provides all functions at a glance.
Cars with the current OS8 system will also get a visual update to what BMW is calling OS 8.5. However, it will only be some new 2024 models that will run the new OS 9 on Android.
Unlike the Android Automotive systems used by Polestar, Volvo and some Ford models, this is an open-source version of the Android system. That means that the system while based in Android is custom-built for BMW, and crucially for users, the data remains with BMW.
The new interface is map-centric, with other elements placed over the top but the map always remains in the background. Comparing it directly to OS 8 as above you can see how much of a change it makes, but it's what you can't see that's more exciting.
The natural language voice technology comes from Amazon's Alexa technology – though not Alexa itself, so again data isn't shared. For connectivity the system is designed around a 5G connection, providing the fastest possible data access. The Android platform also gives Drive the potential to grow and expand as new features become available for entertainment, safety and autonomous driving capabilities.
The first cars with the Drive OS9 are expected to be the new 5 Series later this year, followed by updates to other models. I can't wait to try out the new look for myself soon.