In-Car Tech

Here's everything you need to know about BMW iDrive 8

BMW iDrive 8 is launching soon.

Photo courtesy of BMW

The BMW iX and i4 are on their way to North America. Ahead of their debuts, their maker wishes to set some expectations for the customer experience inside the electric vehicles. BMW aims to make the user experience more "natural interactive and holistic" courtesy of a new generation of displays, controls, software, connectivity, and data processing.


BMW iDrive 8  infotainment screen

Photo courtesy of BMW

Among the most visible key components of the system are a high-resolution 200 psi 12.3-inch infotainment screen at the center of the dashboard and a 14.9-inch control display (instrument cluster). The infotainment screen is curved, slim, and feature a non-reflective glass surface. It is angled toward the driver but BMW is quick to point out that a front passenger can easily use the interface as well.

BMW's new operating system, iDrive 8, is designed with a focus on voice and dialogue-based interaction. The BMW curved display interacts with the system using natural language commands (via BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant) or touch. The user experience is heightened by a choreographed routine of lights and animation. Drivers can set the My Modes fun action to use an interplay of various vehicle technology to set the mood.

The new iDrive system combines with modern screen technology to deliver eye-catching graphics in bright colors and an expanded use of light to create an immersive visual experience.


Like iDrive 7, iDrive 8 allows for users to swipe downwards from the display or by tiling the iDrive Controller upwards. The fast access menu contains shortcuts and frequently used functions. Users can store their own shortcuts and edit them from the same menu. Radio stations, navigation destinations, phone numbers and links to submenus are among the preferences that can be set as a shortcut. In each case, the type of shortcut is visualized by a symbol in the digital fast access view, so the user can quickly find their way around.


The BMW iDrive 8 system is consistently processing large amounts of data, and not all of it is self-generated. The data collected from the BMW Group vehicle fleet allows for greater personalization via the BMW ID. This artificial intelligence recognizes repetitive situations, learns from them, and provides suggestions on how functions can be activated accordingly.

Further technology

BMW iDrive 8 screen controls

Photo courtesy of BMW

BMW has engineered the technology to allow for more third-party apps than ever before.

A head-up display features graphics and content while being integrated flush into the surface of the instrument panel with no bezel surround.

Over-the-air updates are standard with the new system.


BMW iDrive 8

There are minimalistic controls inside the BMW iX.

Photo courtesy of BMW

The iX will be the first vehicle to get BMW iDrive 8. The all-electric SUV was developed based around an all-digital and electric ethos where artistic touches intersect with modern technology in a clear and pleasing way. The traditional number of buttons in the cabin has been cut in half as part of the iDrive redesign.

A touch controller features a glass-effect finish in the iX. It's framed by a high-gloss black panel, similar to how the controller is housed in modern BMWs. There are haptic buttons on the center console as well as a rocker switch for gear selection and an audio roller control. Buyers can specify their seat adjustment buttons in a polished crystal finish.

Steering wheel

BMW iDrive 8 steering wheel

Photo courtesy of BMW

BMW has made it possible for the driver to interact with the screens in the instrument display via function keys on the steering wheel. Like on other BMW vehicles, the two-axis operating system enables user-friendly vertical list navigation of on-screen content with the rotating key, as well as toggling between menus by tilting the key horizontally.

Driver information screen

Displays on the driver information screen allow the person behind the wheel to choose from a media widget, a portion of the navigation map for orientation, detailed status displays for the driver assistance systems in the Assisted View and a G-force meter, which displays longitudinal and lateral acceleration in figures and graphics. Additionally, a 3D graphical range display provides a quick overview of the car's current operating range, the minimum and maximum remaining range, and – if the navigation function is activated – the distance to the driver's destination.

The display layout options include:

  • Drive - Drivers can use a dynamically changing area in the center of the information display to show individually selectable information
  • Focus - Designed for dynamic driving situations – wider instrument needles and higher-resolution dials allow driving information to be visualized in a highly detailed format
  • Gallery - Largely minimizes the driving information view to clear as much space as possible for widget content
Color-coordinated, three-dimensional animations give each of the three layouts a distinctive character.


BMW iDrive 8 widgets interface cards

Photo courtesy of BMW

The new arrangement and structure of the widgets has them displayed horizontally on the control display. They're lined up like a ribbon on the home screen. Frequently used functions are shown in the widgets and can be activated by touch. For example, in the navigation widget, there is a button for changing the map view while the phone widget has buttons for accepting/rejecting calls. A long press on a widget can move it around via drag and drop.

BMW has designed the widgets to change depending on the context, showing more or less information as the situation demands.


The BMW iX will be the first premium model available worldwide that is compatible with 5G mobile technology. In addition to quick uploads and downloads, the moderm modem allows occupants of the vehicle to stream in high definition.

BMW Maps

BMW iDrive 8  navigation BMW maps

Photo courtesy of BMW

The BMW navigation is now cloud-based and enables routes to be dynamically routed. The system also integrates digital services for navigation, parking and charging into one BMW Maps system.

The system also uses artificial intelligence to analyze habits associated with a certain BMW ID including frequently visited destinations and routes traveled.

Prior to reaching the destination, the system will ask the driver whether it should help them search for a parking space and if they prefer to park on the road or in a car park close to the destination. The route currently being followed is adapted accordingly.

Drivers can choose from three navigation map views:

  • Adaptive - The driver can view relevant information along the route, and this is adjusted according to the driving situation
  • Reduced - The presentation of information takes on a more focused form
  • Expanded - Shows all available information on the vehicle's current surroundings

BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant

BMW iDrive 8  Intelligent Personal Assistant bubble

Photo courtesy of BMW

BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant has gotten an upgrade as well. Owners can give the technology the name of their choice. The Personal Assistant doesn't just listen to commands. It offers feedback in the form of spheres of light in differing sizes and brightness levels, giving the assistant more space and new ways of expressing itself, including the ability to express different emotions and states of mind non-verbally and in a human-like manner, according to BMW.

The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant can control functions such as climate control, ambient lighting, audio playback, opening and closing of the side windows, shading of the panoramic glass roof, switching between My Modes, the driver assistance systems, and more. It can answer questions on operating functions, Control messages, driving history, and vehicle characteristics. It can also access points of interest information.

BMW promises that the Personal Assistant will learn new functions and new forms of expression as the ongoing development of BMW iDrive continues. These new features will be regularly imported into the vehicle via over-the-air updates.

BMW ConnectedDrive credentials

Current BMW ConnectedDrive customers are able to use their existing credentials to access their BMW ID to help customize their experience in the vehicle. BMW says that in the future, it will be possible to securely store more personalized settings in BMW ID and transfer them between vehicles. A PIN code can be created for the BMW ID associated with a particular key to prevent other vehicle users from accessing personal data.

A new version of the My BMW App will launch soon.

BMW Digital Key Plus

The upcoming BMW Digital Key Plus version is based on ultra-sideband (UWB) technology that is already integrated into many smartphones. Apple and the BMW Group have been working closely together with the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) to develop the Digital Key Release 3.0 specification for UWB.

A new generation of remote-control keys will also feature UWB technology.

A warm welcome

BMW iDrive 8  walk up animation welcome sequence

Photo courtesy of BMW

BMW iDrive 8 aims to create "Great Entrance Moments" via a welcome sequence of lights and functions when a key fob holder walks up to the vehicle. Here's how BMW describes it:

"As soon as the distance drops below ten feet, the vehicle starts to wake up and indicates this with a gradually intensifying, dynamic lighting effect using the headlights and rear lights. A soft, subdued light comes on in the cabin. The vehicle shows the customer the way to the entrance area, which is lit up by a light carpet in the vicinity of the driver's door featuring geometric forms inspired by the elements of the graphical user interface. At the same time, the door handles and trunk lid handle are illuminated.

"Once the driver moves to within five feet, the vehicle unlocks no matter whether they are carrying their UWB-equipped key or a smartphone with BMW Digital Key Plus. The vehicle also now indicates that it is getting ready to drive by folding out the exterior mirrors. Opening a door activates the seat's entry assistance feature along with the surface and steering wheel heating. The interior light illuminates the area from the entrance to the center console. The entire BMW Curved Display is taken up by a BMW-style welcome animation that shows the system is starting up."

Climate control

BMW iDrive 8 control screen infotainment climate controls

Photo courtesy of BMW

With the number of buttons in the cockpit halved with the iDrive 8 introduction, a number of climate controls have ben incorporated into the BMW Curved Display. Changes can be made to the settings via voice command or from the menu in the control display is registered by the system and stored in the user profile for the BMW ID so that users do not have to keep making the same adjustments.

BMW has developed what it believes to be the ideal pre-set configuration based on the evaluation of more than 440 million customer trips across all model classes and regions of the world. The configuration takes into account fan speed, air distribution seat heating, and seat ventilation, as well as the number of occupants in the vehicle.

By having a user specify a target temperature for each climate zone, BMS says that there is no need for manual operations of functions like seat heating. Intelligent analyzation of voice commands will decide what functions you need. For example, if you tell the system, "My feet are cold.," the temperature of the footwell will be increased.

Animations help users see the system working to achieve the targeted temperature.

My Modes

BMW iDrive 8 My Modes

Photo courtesy of BMW

My Modes is a user-centric experience that utilizes a driver's preferences to create what BMW calls "unique moments" for the driver. My Modes are designed to stimulate multiple senses, from sight to hearing to touch. They can be selected by voice command or by using a dedicated button on the center console. This will replace the Driving Experience Control switch in future and offer an even greater range of functions.

My Modes is not fully developed yet. The initial version will combine up to 10 different parameters of the vehicle, all of which can be activated via a single command. This includes previous driving experience mode functions, such as engine throttle and transmission control, steering characteristics, and chassis settings as well as the style and layout of displays and acoustics. All of this is combined into three options:

  • Efficient Mode - Focused on sustainable driving and configures the vehicle to keep consumption as low as possible. The driver is given tips by the intelligent Efficiency Trainer. The design of the displays in this mode was inspired by flowing water and reflected sunlight. The interior ambience is made as calm as possible: a pleasant blue shade sets the tone for the lighting mood and the noise from the engine/motor is reduced. This all has the effect of immersing the driver in a uniquely relaxing environment.
  • Sport Mode- Adjusts vehicle characteristics such as acceleration and handling for a sporty drive. The power unit's sound is increased and provides distinct acoustic feedback when accelerating. Thrilling Orange becomes the dominant color for the interior lighting, while the displays take on a pared-back, more focused appearance to help the driver concentrate fully on the road.
  • Personal Mode - Customers have the option to create their own My Mode. The vehicle characteristics are set to a balanced configuration. The customer can choose various lighting and color settings and display layouts, and also select other settings to create their personal ideal driving experience.

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The 2021 Lamborghini Sián Roadster is a smile maker.

Photo courtesy of Automobili Lamborghini

If you're not rich enough to have an automaker completely craft you a one-off from scratch, the next best thing is to take full advantage of the company's vehicle customization options. There's usually a special devision that takes care of this. At Aston Martin, it's Q. Bentley has Mulliner and Porsche offers up their Manufaktur department.

Lambroghini's Ad Personam customization program offers five key areas where customers can make the vehicle they order unique. Specialists assist customers at every step of the process, taking into consideration their demands as craftspeople create the vehicle that's ordered.

The choice of 348 unique colors.

Lamborghini Ad Personam paint colors

Lamborghinis are offered in a wide variety of colors.

Photo courtesy of Lamborghini Automobili

Though not every color is available in every region of the world, there are 348 total options offered to customers. Americans tend to be the most demanding, requesting 20 percent of the custom colors that Ad Personam offers up, followed by customers in Asia Pacifica and EMEA region.

Take the car to the next level with diamond dust paint.

All that glitters isn't always gold. Sometimes it's diamonds. Ad Personam offers Lamborghinis with a new transparent paint that includes micro crystals in the form of diamond dust. This dust undergoes a unique processing technique and is applied to the bodywork of the supercar, giving it an iridescent sheen that changes color according to reflections of the light at that moment.

Add a unique work of art.

Lamborghini's talented upholstery department has seen it all. In addition to the typical orders, they're able to take special requests for unique decorations and embroidery, from the seat logo, hand-stitched rather than hot-embossed, to the initials embroidered inside the passenger compartment.

Some of the most creative options requested by buyers include creating branches and peach blossoms, portraits of the customer or their beloved pet, designs in street art style with the bull, and "splash-effect" color (like in the Aventador S by Skyler Grey), to images of the skyline of their favorite city.

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The new Maps+ app will allow drivers to use a navigation system who had not previously purchased navigation.

Photo courtesy of General Motors

General Motors is giving its vehicles a new navigation solution. Maps+, an in-vehicle, app-based way-finding program, will begin rolling out to approximately 900,000 model year 2018 and newer Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles by the end of 2021, starting on April 30.

"We know customers want an easy and convenient in-vehicle experience that improves over time," said Santiago Chamorro, GM vice president of Global Connected Services. "We listened to customer feedback and developed a product that works seamlessly with our current infotainment systems and provides a highly personalized experience that will iterate throughout the lifetime of the vehicle."

Maps+ was developed in partnership with Mapbox. The new app replaces navigation functionality in already-purchased vehicles that had purchased a navigation system. It provides navigation functionality to drivers of vehicles that did not opt for navigation at the onset.

The new application features Alexa build-in voice control that allows users to listen to music or podcasts using the system's integrated audio apps. A search box allows users to find points of interest, shops, restaurants, parking, and more. There is also embedded speed alert, low fuel recognition, predictive keyboard entry, day and night modes, category shortcuts, rear-time traffic routing, and dynamic mapping capability.

"Our obsession is the driver," said Peter Sirota, CEO of Mapbox. "The map is the canvas for providing the driver with a delightful, easy-to-use experience. From discovering new places to avoiding traffic on your commute to paying at the pump or the plug, Maps+ lays the foundation for an excellent navigation experience. We are excited to build upon this with GM to continue to drive adoption."

GM and Mapbox are committed to continuing Maps+ post-launch, developing new features and improvements based on feedback and metrics.

Maps+ will be available on select vehicles through Connected Vehicle, Premium and App Access subscription plans. Current eligible Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac owners will be notified when their vehicle is eligible for Maps+.

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