Have you ever pulled up your favorite GPS program and been pleasantly surprised when it knows just where you’d like to go next? If so, you’ve experienced the benefits of telematics.
Telematics are services that combine communications technologies with vehicles, computers, and electronics.
Until recently, the banner of telematics was largely carried by companies like Apple and Google. But BMW’s new ConnectedDrive service will offer a fully integrated suite of technologies that surpass and expand on what you might do using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
A Brief History of BMW Telematics
You’re probably aware that your BMW’s onboard computers record data about the car’s operation. For example, a check engine code or your favorite seating position.
BMWs have supported the use of onboard SIM cards since way back in 2001, as any proud E38 or vintage 8-series owner might remind you as they brandish their sweet armrest-entombed Motorola.
However, it’s only recently that wireless technology has become potent enough to relay meaningful information about your car back to BMW corporate servers in real-time and make use of it effectively.
Introducing BMW CarData
Great, so now your car company can track your every move along with your cell phone provider! Don’t lock yourself in the basement just yet, though, because the BMW ConnectedDrive service is completely opt-in.
The service is available as a subscription and can provide several intelligent benefits. It’s been available in Europe since 2017 and is available in the USA since 2020. For example, how about using the car’s voice command system to pull up directions to your next destination on-the-fly?
Directions are only the beginning, though, because the telematics integration built in to new BMWs allows for a host of helpful services and features. All aspects of the driving experience can now be fine-tuned to fit your preferences.
One of the most helpful components of CarData is the ability to request and download your car’s data at any time and manage how it’s used. You’re in control. And there’s a lot you can do with your car’s data.
Tunes, Tuneups, and Cheaper Insurance!
Only you and BMW can see data collected by BMW CarData. However, you can opt to share the data with whomever you decide.
So, in the scenario that you choose to share your data with BMW only, you might get reminders about your vehicle’s service at regular intervals or advice to bring your car in to resolve an outstanding error code. You would also be eligible for over-the-air software updates from BMW, which they promise will take no longer than 20 minutes.
Get a little more adventurous, though, and you might find there are a lot of things you can do with ConnectedDrive and CarData. Imagine authorizing your insurance provider to access your car’s data, revealing that you average a very high number of miles-per-gallon because you follow speed laws and don’t drive aggressively. Add to that that you’ve had no accidents in the past year, and congratulations! You’re eligible for a refund. Or at least a lower rate.
BMW has also promised that CarData and the sister service BMW ConnectedDrive will allow you to take advantage of enhanced functionality from your car’s infotainment system. So you might authorize your favorite streaming radio service to view data on your listening habits and get suggestions about new music or playlists through your BMW’s infotainment interface.
You Control Your Data
BMW Group uses the phrase “trust through transparency” to describe the CarData data sharing architecture on their own website. Rather than shy away from the topic of data governance, CarData is positioned as a system that gives you total control. And from the looks of it, they’ve done a good job.
All third parties that make use of BMW CarData data pay for it. In exchange for their compensation, they get the right to offer special, exclusive services to CarData users. Subscribers can log in to the CarData portal at any time and download a report that will show exactly what data was forwarded to what provider, when, based on your consent.
In a world where it seems our data is being traded, bargained for, and stolen out from under our noses every day, it’s a refreshingly honest approach.
Is CarData for You?
Telematics has historically been the realm of fleet operators who want to keep a close eye on the maintenance of their vehicles to minimize unplanned repair costs. However, the possibilities with these new technologies go far beyond knowing when to check your oil.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are CarData’s two biggest problems. The two popular cell-phone-derived car integration suites might appear to offer the same things that CarData does at first. In fact, they’re somewhat different.
BMW’s decision to launch telematics before many third parties have had the chance to develop more robust offerings might mean it’s slow to catch on. But look for the service to develop a following as more customers are able to take advantage of their vehicle’s data.