Want New BMW Software? Don't Park on a Hill and Don't Leave the Car in the Cold

Newer cars can handle over-the-air software updates. That’s a cooler way of saying that your vehicle can connect to a Wi-Fi or cellular network and download stuff. But lines of code written by humans aren’t always reliable. Fortunately, there are safety measures set in place. Here’s one – you can’t update your smart car if it’s parked uphill.
Sliding BMW 5 Series (G30) 17 photos
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2022 BMW i4 for the U.S. market2022 BMW i4 for the U.S. market2022 BMW i4 for the U.S. market2022 BMW i4 for the U.S. market2022 BMW i4 for the U.S. market2022 BMW i4 for the U.S. market2022 BMW i4 for the U.S. market2022 BMW i4 for the U.S. market2022 BMW i4 for the U.S. market2022 BMW i4 for the U.S. market2022 BMW i4 for the U.S. market2022 BMW i4 for the U.S. market2022 BMW i4 for the U.S. market2022 BMW i4 for the U.S. market2022 BMW i4 for the U.S. market2022 BMW i4 for the U.S. market
Buying a new or slightly used BMW soon? Don’t forget to park it on level ground when the time for a software update comes. Given that today’s vehicles are slowly turning into computers on wheels, you will experience at least one major over-the-air change to your vehicle’s operating system and general settings. Also, don't forget about the temperature!

Constant improvements that may or may not be available for free are a great thing for the automotive industry. Not only do they allow carmakers to improve something fast and easy, but also give these companies a shot at making more money with paywalled content. Remember when people were saying last year that Tesla must perform many recalls? Well, those “recalls” were nothing else than brief system updates.

Similarly, you may recall Mercedes-Benz starting to charge some of its EV owners $1,200 for improved performance. We are slowly approaching a world where the 7,000-mile oil change is replaced with a monthly/quarterly/yearly subscription. We say this because not even BMW is far off from this practice. The Bavarian automaker has an entire shop filled with various upgrade options. Yes, even the heated seats subscription is there.

But updating a vehicle’s software is not like agreeing to restart your PC or your phone. Cars are heavy (especially EVs) and can move, they pack many complex features, and there are a lot of settings that need not be changed at once. So, you must be more careful when doing a tiny or comprehensive update. New code or just one little corrupt file can brick your vehicle’s entire operating system. It happened before!

So, what should you do when the time for an over-the-air (OTA) software change comes? Well, many things! Most new vehicle owners don’t tend to open all the literature that comes with the car, but it is important to take heed of what’s said there. Because you may find out that carrying out a successful OTA update may depend on a couple of important prerequisites.

That’s what a BMW i4 owner discovered after they wanted to perform an update before carrying on with their day. The message on the infotainment display confirmed that everything was ready for the software upgrade apart from one thing – the parking spot.

2022 BMW i4 for the U\.S\. market
Photo: BMW
“The road is too steep to start the installation. Please park the vehicle on level ground,” said the prompt.

While at first, it may seem like a funny thing to happen and something to joke about, this is a great safety measure put in place by BMW. You wouldn’t want your car to start rolling away while the update is being delivered. Since almost anything is controlled by software these days, a slight error could result in accidentally releasing the parking brake which can create unforeseen and unwanted consequences.

Moreover, new vehicles come with a ton of sensors. These must be calibrated properly by the car’s computers. You wouldn’t want your taillights to turn off while pressing the brake pedal, right? Such things can happen. This is also why the automaker doesn’t allow you to perform any changes when outside is colder than 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 degrees Celsius).

The i4 owner’s handbook includes a couple of requirements for the successful installation of a software upgrade. These are, as follows:
  • the battery has to be charged enough (usually, more than 20%);
  • hazard lights must be off;
  • the “gear” selector must have “P” mode engaged;
  • the car must be turned off;
  • the outside temperature can’t be lower than 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 degrees Celsius);
  • the car must be parked on level ground.

If one of these prerequisites isn’t met, then the software upgrade process will not start. Similarly, BMW recommends that you park away from the public road, have all the doors and windows closed, the lights turned off, and no energy-consuming devices like your phone left on the wireless charging tray or plugged in. Moreover, the car key must be left inside the vehicle because it confirms your consent for the installation.

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 Download: BMW i4 Owner's Manual (PDF)

About the author: Florin Amariei
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Car shows on TV and his father's Fiat Tempra may have been Florin's early influences, but nowadays he favors different things, like the power of an F-150 Raptor. He'll never be able to ignore the shape of a Ferrari though, especially a yellow one.
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