UK journalist Richard Aucock got a sneak peak into the then very secret new 7er and it ‘s updated iDrive system last year when we got a tour through one of BMW ‘s engineering labs. He also got a lot of background around the ideology behind the iDrive and BMW ‘s general philosophy around cockpit interaction and dispay.

BMW needed a fundamental overhaul of its controller system. As we now know, and was shown to me then, the solution it found is brilliant. ‘We’ve kept the 4-Rose menu as ‘direct’ buttons,’ said the engineers. ‘But, if you’re trained in iDrive, you don’t use the buttons. You do the whole interaction WITHOUT looking at the controller.’

That’s fine, we wagered, but isn’t it even easier to have touchscreen? No, said a horrified engineer. See, touchscreen is absolute: ‘you need to guide your finger all the time, by looking at the screen.’ Imagine, they said, driving along and trying to input a nav destination.

‘iDrive is relative, though – you can turn, wait, give your attention to the road, but still know where you were when your eyes flick back.

‘This is a system for driving. We’ve designed iDrive in general to consist evolutionary steps, so you can see where you came from. It doesn’t overload drivers. And is, we feel, far safer.’

+ BMW tells me why its instruments are lit in orange: an iDrive iNsight / richardaucock.com

Thanks for the tip Nick.

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