“Startups help us gain a better understanding of the future“

Christoph Grote, who heads up BMW Group’s electronics department, showed at WebSummit 2018 in Lisbon how BMW’s connected car are becoming digital, personalised, intelligent and intuitive to interact with to simply the life of customers.

Connected Mobility HUB were there and we wanted to know a bit more about the future of one BMW’s models and about their current transformation toward a mobility-tech company.

Christoph Grote

BMW’s Join Venture

Recently BMW Group and the company CRITICAL Software have create a joint venture in Portugal by the name of Critical TechWorks. “It’s an important addition to the BMW Group’s global innovation network in various areas of IT and high-quality software development. With the offices in Portugal, we benefit from a growing and dynamic environment with young talents who fit our DNA perfectly and are passionate about our products”, explains Christoph Grote.

Specialists at the joint venture are working on innovative business models and knowledge-based product developments. The spectrum of innovations ranges from in-car infotainment solutions and digital services for individual mobility to autonomous transport systems for the BMW Group’s production sites, as well as digital sales and aftersales platforms, all the way to highly integrated product data management and product master data solutions. An example? The new display control concept BMW Operating System 7.0 and Remote Software Upgrade.

The key role of mobility and tech startups in BMW’s transformation

“We have a long lasting tradition to cast innovation into software and this is pushed well beyond the car as a cool product. Start-ups help us gain a better understanding of the future of individual and sustainable mobility from different perspectives, find solutions for it and secure our innovation and technology leadership going forward”, explains Christoph Grote.

To understand a bit more the relation that the the BMW Group is holding with the startups ecosystem, Grote describe for us the initiatives they are carrying out:

  • BMW i Ventures is the BMW Group’s venture capital unit for investing in fast-growing technology startups. The aim is to make financially attractive investments that create strategic value added for the BMW Group. For this purpose, the BMW Group has established its own venture capital fund, with a capitalisation of € 500 million over ten years.
  • The BMW Start-up Garage ensures initial access to strategically important trends and technologies via the best startups worldwide. As our early-adopter venture client unit, it serves as a matchmaker across all BMW Group divisions. The startups we are working with not only focus on products and services, but also help us improve in other areas, such as production, logistics, IT infrastructure, etc. We are constantly scouting for top startups worldwide. Following a successful application, the startups go through the BMW Startup Garage program. The core of the program is development of a functional prototype as part of a pilot project.

The startup is already commissioned as a supplier by the BMW Group during the pilot phase. We also explain automotive processes to the startup, help establish a network within the company and support development of a business plan. One successful example would be Lunewave. Lunewave is developing cutting edge antenna and sensor technology for autonomous vehicles, wireless communications and drones.

Asked about one technology present that Grote -as BMW Group’s electronics department leader- is especially proud, he mentioned the BMW Operating System 7.0 and Remote Software Upgrade function, in particular, will change how people interact with their vehicles. The new end-to-end digital display control concept opens up a whole new dimension of customization and personalization that enables the vehicle to respond even better to individual needs”.

Remote Software Upgrade

The goal is to always show the driver the relevant information at the right time, taking their needs and preferences into account. This includes providing relevant services in each situation – such as automatically opening up a parking map when the vehicle is approaching its destination.

The Remote Software Upgrade ensures that the vehicle is always updated and allows us to constantly improve the quality and security of the vehicle and its driving functions, such as the Parking Assistant, throughout its lifecycle. It also enables customers to add vehicle functions at a later date.

The challenge of reducing complexity in the future BMW iNEXT

“In addition to the highly automated driving capabilities the BMW iNEXT will showcase from 2021 on, I also think the BMW Vision iNEXT strikes exactly the right balance between high-tech functionality and reducing complexity.” This means the user is not overloaded with a mass of buttons or displays; instead, the technology is discrete and pleasant to use, without compromising functionality.

“We call this “shy tech”. The key to the HMI of the future lies in elegant simplicity with intuitive operation. This is key to transforming the vehicle into a “favourite space” dedicated to its human occupants”.

As a last question, we asked Mr Grote how would he like to be BMW seen by their customers in the future? “We have evolved to a software-driven mobility company. We provide way more than a vehicle that gets you from A to B. The vehicle itself has become an interface for our customers between their mobility needs and their digital life. Also, we are creating a whole ecosystem of mobility services. This means that, in the future, we will offer our customers greater freedom of choice when it comes to how they want to meet their mobility needs and what services they really need. This is more of an “on-demand” and “pick-and-choose” approach. Our solutions also have to be very flexible, since customers’ needs change very quickly.”

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