BMW will introduce the world to a further customizable automobile. As we recently hinted at, BMW has all intentions of making their future cars feature 2-way communication and a completely customizable experience. Much in the same way a personal computer can be customized the vehicle will be able to be, screen savers, colors of the menus etc. These customizations will not need to be made within the car, they can be made remotely on a personal home computer and transferred to the vehicle via a remote server from the internet (GSM Telematics unit) or from a portable device (car key fob, USB fob drive, CD/DVD, etc.)

What is of greater interest is what else we have learned: Functions for the engine and boost levels will also have user preferences that can be customizable for performance or economy, diagnostics can also be accomplished via two way communication with the server. Time shifting radio (Tivo for the radio is now possible with a hard disk based system) the ability to log on to the net and start the HVAC system, to schedule when the seat heaters turn on etc.

All of this will be done via the web (or as above) eliminating much of the fuss associated with making changes within the car, this builds on the current use of Connected Drive. Each user can customize the car to his/her preferences and the car will automatically adjust the setting once the key fob is detected just as many features today do.

What this all verifies is that iDrive is indeed still too overly complicated (though it has made less clutter and cars more customizable) and this is a method for simplifying the user experience even further. In other words, not all the presets and choices are needed in the vehicles main menu structure since they can be more easily accessed from elsewhere from a computer and this should alleviate the tedious nature of making these adjustments in the vehicle.

Here are some of the possible customizable features BMW has recently patented. We can not be certain of the time frame of this technology but we have been hearing from sources that some of these features mentioned below may be rolled out in the newest rendition of the iDrive we have previously discussed.

The information below is quoted from a recent BMW patent (#7379541). It is dated May 27, 2008 (Iggulden, et al.)

The graphical user interface with which a user sets the functions and preferences of the motor vehicle may be highly sophisticated. The options that may be provided are virtually limitless. The following lists some of the functions that could be implemented. Many of these allow a driver to personalize his or her car much as cell phones are personalized with distinctive cases, ring tones, greeting messages, etc.

Interior Entertainment

Radio Driver enters ZIP code and finds all local radio stations. Driver may select by station frequency, ID, genre (jazz, pop, talk, etc.), or signal strength, and assign to presets on dash or on touch display. Optionally, set up to scan among chosen stations until the one desired is tuned. Say “OK ” and the radio will stay on the currently tuned station. Choose the scan delay time (3 sec, 5 sec, etc.) Select option to seek out the same genre of station driver was listening to in a new area whenever signal strength falls below a preset level. Specify favorite stations and/or programs and the audio system will switch at the designated day/time, e.g., on weekdays: NPR in the morning until 9:00, classical radio station until 2:00, sports station until 5:00, news, weather, and traffic until 6:30. Choose different schedule line-up for weekends. If not in the car when favorite radio program starts, have the system record it (time-shift radio). Play back with the ability to pause, rewind, FF, skip, preserve segments, etc.

CD Changer Driver places CDs for use in car into CD drive of home computer. Application program reads the CDs and creates a play list that is transferred to car. Specify favorite songs to play in a desired order or at random. Play sources at random alternating or predetermined way with preferred radio stations and/or programs and/or MP3 tunes.

MP3 Tunes Use transfer device to move MP3 files to the car. Create play list as above. All audio sources can be programmed to play in an almost infinite way based on time, day of the week or programmed “function button. ”

Sound & Source Management Mix and match radio, CDs, MP3s by time of day, randomly, etc. Set audio level for radio, CD and/or MP3 player to be used when car is started. Set a “default ” source. Select whether play continues with the same source at the same volume when car is started in the morning, or switches to a different predetermined source at a different volume (e.g., system automatically defaults to AM traffic source if it ‘s between 7:00 and 8:00 AM). Optimize sound for driver or for cabin. Set equalization manually or for a specific genre of music–i.e., whenever radio is on jazz station, system defaults to driver ‘s “jazz ” EQ. RESET to factory defaults.

Reminders Driver may type in any manner of reminders or notes to be read back by voice synthesis at the push of a button at any set time or interval. Reminders can be played back in the car or from the home computer. Climate Control

Filter Automatic or manual. Recirculate air, or don ‘t, or mix in a selectable ratio.

Fan Set preferred default setting for fan speed using slider from MIN to MAX. On MIN setting fan blows gently even if a large cabin-temperature change is required. On MAX setting fan blows at full speed until desired cabin temp is achieved. Slider allows for any speed in between.

Comfort Index Select relative weights of IR sensor, outside and inside temps to optimize comfort for the driver (it can be cool outside but the IR detector sees lots of IR, so it thinks it ‘s summer and the air conditioner comes on). Include humidity in the relative comfort index as below.

Timed Temperature Preset High and low temperature thresholds can be set and the car can automatically bring cabin temperature to within a selected comfort level at a designated time of day. For example, the system may be programmed to start 5 minutes before a regularly scheduled departure time. As a safety precaution, the system may automatically shut down after running ten minutes without user intervention.

Seat Warmer Program the seat warmer to activate at a designated time of day or as soon as car is unlocked. Program a button on the dash to turn on the seat warmer for five minutes every 30 minutes after the car is shut off. Circuit monitors battery current and shuts down seat warmers when appropriate.

Temperature Individual user preferences are easily set up and transferred using multiple transfer devices (keys/fobs). Select “Alfresco ” mode and system automatically boosts A/C or heating output as needed when convertible top is lowered. Different settings for the front passenger seat can be selected depending on whether or not the seat is occupied.

Humidity Select desired relative humidity with slider control or RESET to factory defaults. Navigation

Address Entry Enter addresses using computer keyboard or by dragging and dropping from Web site or address book. While driving, a designated cockpit button can be pressed to store the current location, which can then be uploaded to the home computer and Web site.

Address Library Enter or select a new or saved address on the home computer; elect to have this loaded as the destination address when car starts.

Trip Planning Book hotel rooms (through third-party Web site) by clicking on a map for the final destination and on intermediate stops if appropriate. Select points of interest within a selected range along the route. Purchase tickets or passes or make reservations for events or movies or restaurants. Receive notification when its getting close to time to refill the tank at an upcoming preferred gas station(s).

Route Planning Select addresses from address library and obtain most efficient route plan given the time of day, distances and known traffic conditions. Mobile Phone

Phone Book Selected numbers (and addresses) from computer phone book are available to the phone (and Navigation) system.

Voice Dialing Activate voice dialing on selected phone numbers from phone book.

Phone Voice Commands Select key words that will activate voice-dialing functions (call, end, mute, switch). Personalization

Horn Effects Select synthesized horn sounds from a list. Select horn response mode, e.g., pushing the horn switch and holding it in sounds the warning horn sound as normal; one quick tap sounds a different horn sound ( “friendly ” light-is-green horn); two quick taps sounds a brief personalized “tune “, e.g., driver ‘s signature “I ‘m home ” tune.

Interior Lighting Effects Select the color and intensity of dial/dash backlighting. Selected preferred cabin “atmosphere ” when door is opened (dim cabin lighting, full-on bright, others). Link lights to doors, e.g., opening only driver ‘s door turns on only left-front map light; when rear doors are opened rear lights also activate.

Sound Effects Select the sound the turn indicator makes. Select a sound if the gas cap is not on or seated. Select a sound when motorized seats are being adjusted. Personalized seat-belt warning. Select an alert sound when driving above a preset speed. Select keys-in-ignition reminder tone.

Visual Effects Add a photo or image to the LCD. Screensaver for LCD when vehicle is in Park.

Voice Commands Select any number of short voice commands to accomplish listed specific in-cabin tasks: “Open sunroof. “, Open my window. “, “High beams. “, etc. In-Vehicle Interface

Systems & Controls Customize the function of “function buttons ” to control selected functions of any system in the car. In cars with touch screen LCDs, select from among the components of the systems to be displayed and/or controlled from the LCD.

Buttons Program any button in the cabin to do just about anything.

Vehicle Safety

Window & Sunroof Control Set each window so the occupant of the adjoining seat can only lower the window to a selected level. Lock window controls at selected seats. Set a button in the cockpit to lower a preset amount/close all or selected windows and open/close the sunroof. Set the sunroof to partially open when the inside temperature exceeds a predetermined temperature. Also have the fan come on at the desired speed for selectable intervals.

Seatbelts Disable engine start if all or selected seats with passengers don ‘t have seat belts fastened.

Speed Governor Sound a selected warning sound when the car exceeds a specified speed. Make the warning louder the higher above the preset speed the car goes Limit the maximum speed of the car. Limit the maximum rate of acceleration.

Vehicle Tracking Using GPS or mobile phone, create a log of where the car has been, when and for how long. Also track how hard the car was driven. Set up real-time tracking of the vehicle

Accident Set some or all of interior lights to flash and the horn to sound. Enable transmission of GPS coordinates. Security

Door Locks Determine if and at what speed all or selected doors lock. Set certain doors to unlock only after one or both of the front doors have been opened for a selected period of time. Enable “lock doors ” voice command.

Window Control (see Safety above) Enable voice command for “windows up. ”

Panic Alert Function button or voice command that locks all doors, rolls up windows, flashes lights, sounds an emergency “siren “. Enable “panic button ” to call one or more predetermined phone numbers and deliver and repeat a voice synthesized message when the call is answered. Add vehicle location to the message.

Door Access Disable opening one or more doors from the outside unless one or more specific doors are opened from the inside.

Lighting Select how long and which of the external and internal lights go on after unlock, all doors closed, engine start, vehicle speed.

Alarms Program security codes. Select functions for key-fob panic button (e.g., flash lights, activate “I need help! ” synthesized-voice horn). Performance

Suspension Control Adjust the ride of computerized suspension from sport to luxury or anywhere in between.

Engine Control Select within a range between economy and performance

Transmission Control Within factory-set ranges, determine shift aggressiveness (e.g., allow max-rpm shifts or always shift as early as possible for best economy).

Steering Adjust the feel of steering from stiffer to lighter using an infinitely variable slider.

Winter Click box to optimize car for poor-weather (e.g., transmission starts in second gear, max traction control intervention, ABS fires at minimum lock detection, etc.). Tuning

Sport Mode Set up one-button high-performance profile (e.g., low-economy, max power, max transmission aggressiveness, stiffest shocks).

Turbo Boost Within factory range, adjust turbo pressure to favor economy, sport mode or point in between.

Handling Select spring/shock rates, select steering ratio, select traction control response, etc. Emergency Information

Contacts In case of emergency or accident, list numbers to contact to speak to hands-free or with a pre-entered voice synthesized call. In event of airbag deployment, selected contact name and number to flash on LCD to assist rescue personnel in case of driver incapacitation.

Other Notifications Transmit vital information to insurance company.

Emergency Aid One button summons list and numbers for nearest hospitals, police, fire, pharmacy, etc. based on GPS location–plus preset list of needed phone numbers (friends, family doctor, school, etc).

Information & Service / Trip Logs

Daily Mileage Logs Record and display distances traveled. Record routes traveled. Record and display fuel consumed. Calculate a “cost per mile ” of operation, including tire wear, gas mileage, lease and insurance cost, etc. Selectively clear various logs. Set additional or alternative criteria for “measuring ” various parameters of daily use.

Trip Mileage Logs On trips of a preset duration in hours, days, miles or upon pushing a “start trip ” function button, record distances between stops, total trip mileage, average speed gas mileage for the entire trip or trip segments, etc.

Cumulative Data Record all possible or selected data from a master reset done at the dealer upon delivery of the car.

Guest Logs Record trip information (route points, speeds, time) from selected start to stop points. Service & Diagnostics

Last Service At what mileage. On what day and time. At what dealer. At what cost. What was done.

Next Service Anticipated date based on how the car is being driven, etc. What will be serviced at the next service. What bugs in the car need to be fixed. What will it cost. How much time should it take. Request email within predetermined period before the service should be done as a reminder. Request phone contact from nearest or selected dealer to set an appointment. Request dealer assistance in getting the car to service and back.

Diagnostics Send diagnostic codes to manufacturer and dealer. Receive software and firmware-based fixes.

Firmware & Software Updates Receive periodic updates to operating systems, that enable new functionality. Interactive User ‘s Manual

Virtual Test Drive Animate various controls on the home computer screen.

Learn & Setup Interactively learn the various options and settings available in the car.

Automatic Tutor Based on data collected from vehicle, user is prompted to learn about controls/systems that have not yet been set (e.g., “You have not yet set up your Address Book. Would you like assistance? “). Weather and Driving Conditions

Forecast Obtain weather forecast for travel area.

Road Conditions Obtain reports of road conditions, accidents, clogged traffic, roadwork being conducted, etc.

Safety Kit Obtain list of suggested bring-along items based on weather forecast and planned travel route (snow chains, ice scraper, sunscreen, full tank-few filling stations on the way, etc). Contact Vehicle Manufacturer

FAQ Access a searchable database of FAQs

Help Access a searchable “help ” database. Email the service center with specific questions and issues.

Vehicle-specific Information Send vehicle data to manufacturer. Receive feedback and/or contact information after data has been received and analyzed.

Nearest Dealerships Access list with maps of closest dealers, etc.

Customer Relations Subscribe to newsletter. Subscribe to other periodic news about vehicle and/or related interests. Request notification about new model introductions. Elect to receive periodic questionnaires relating to satisfaction, etc. Request results of surveys about quality, customer satisfaction, etc. Request notification about special offers and events. Shop

Driving Accessories Order custom car mats, spill-proof coffee mugs, first-aid kits, CD carriers, seat covers, car covers, etc.

Logo Wear Order jackets, shirts, luggage, gloves, sunglasses, hats, golf bags, etc.

Performance Accessories Order optional wheels, gold-trim kits, trailer hitches, aero body kits, roof racks, bicycle carriers, audio/visual equipment, etc.

Events Order tickets to manufacturer-sponsored races, motor shows, sporting events, social gatherings, etc.

(Source/ quoted BMW AG patent)