BMW has announced it will begin integrating Android Auto in some of its vehicles beginning in March of 2023. Could this mean some BMW and MINIs will get Android instead of iDrive? Although Android Auto will indeed be offered as an optional user experience (alongside CarPlay), this announcement is far different and much more important.
From March 2023, the BMW Group will be expanding its BMW Operating System 8 and integrating Android Automotive OS (AAOS) into certain model series for the first time as a second technological approach alongside the current Linux-based variant. What most see when they read that statement is BMW is replacing its iDrive system with Android Auto. However that is not at all what is happening.
BMW intends to use the underlying technical architecture of Android Auto (which is based on Unix) to power the iDrive infotainment system in certain cars. That means most consumers won’t even notice a difference in the overall experience of the infotainment system in a Android based BMW and a Unix based on.
“We are integrating the best aspects of all worlds – that could be our own in-house developments, Open Source or commercial software products, depending on what the specific solution looks like. We make sure our customers always enjoy a unique, customised digital experience in their vehicle”Stephan Durach, Senior Vice-President Connected Company and Development Technical Operations at the BMW Group
Why would they make this move given that their current Unix based system seems to work well? There are likely several reasons. For one it allows BMW & MINI to leverage the massive amount of Android developer talent globally. Because of Android’s reach, there’s simply far more developers who can develop on the platform making it easier for BMW & MINI to find talent. Then there’s the tight integration with Google apps and data which allows BMW & MINI to serve some customers more effectively.
The move also allows the infotainment system to be individually configured and an expanded set of digital features and options. What that means BMW isn’t saying, but it’s not hard to see how it will allow Google apps to be more easily integrated into the system and much better voice recognition. For an example of how this could work, look no further than the just released (and surprisingly good) Cadillac Lyriq which uses similar Android integration.
The expanded BMW Operating System 8 will continue to be updated “over the air” at regular intervals with the BMW Remote Software Upgrade – something we’ll see from MINI in the future as well.
While BMW has given us a date, it hasn’t given us any details on specific models or if MINI will be included in this change. We’d expect to hear more about that this fall.