BMW Updates iDrive Infotainment System, Reveals New Home Screen

With everything turning digital nowadays, long gone are the days when auto manufacturers only equipped their vehicles with buttons and dials, with minor exceptions. Having an intuitive interaction system is a major bonus for any brand. In this regard, BMW announced the newest version of the BMW iDrive system, placing significant emphasis on ease of use.
BMW iDrive QuickSelect with Operating System 9 10 photos
Photo: BMW
BMW iDrive QuickSelect with Operating System 9BMW iDrive QuickSelect with Operating System 8.52024 BMW X22024 BMW X22024 BMW X22024 BMW X22024 BMW X22024 BMW X22024 BMW X2
The German auto manufacturer describes iDrive as “more than just a control and operating system – it’s a digital world of experience allowing human and car to interact with one another and exchange information.”

With technology constantly evolving, brands must keep up and refine their operating system to create a pleasurable user experience. In BMW’s case, it translates into offering a more comprehensive range of digital content for information and entertainment, better data regarding EV charging points, shorter update cycles, and enhanced access to specific online services.

iDrive features a new graphical interface and an optimized menu structure – BMW focuses on touchscreen interaction and natural language. The hardware that serves as the point of interaction with the customer is the BMW Curved Display.

The next-gen BMW iDrive comes with several changes, which I will explain below. I’ll start with the home screen, which has been turned into a permanently viewable user interface. Of course, what’s shown on the Curved Display is entirely configurable.

BMW iDrive QuickSelect with Operating System 8\.5
Photo: BMW
BMW follows a new zero-layer principle – in simpler terms, all relevant functions and information are displayed simultaneously. You won’t have to cycle through sub-menus to find a specific function as they have all been fitted onto the home menu. This is possible via the use of live widgets, which appear in a vertical arrangement on the driver’s side of the user interface.

Each function comes with its own icon, which can be selected with a finger swipe. Of course, you might find that the standard arrangement doesn’t satisfy you, so BMW offers the ability to rearrange the icons however you please.

For even easier access, there’s the Quick Select functionality. As its name suggests, it allows you to directly select entertainment programs, contact lists, and vehicle settings, as well as start the interaction with the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. Returning to the main menu is as simple as tapping the home icon at the lower edge of the display.

The new operating concept for BMW iDrive is inspired by today’s consumer electronics. Until not so long ago, car operating systems, even for the high-end brand, were always lacking behind those of consumer electronics. But auto manufacturers realized the importance of having an advanced point of interaction, so they invested heavily in superior hardware and software.

2024 BMW X2
Photo: CarPix
By integrating a flat menu structure, BMW makes activating functions and setting simpler and faster while enriching the driving experience in a BMW. All the digital content is accessible through the Curved Display, which has been designed to increase driver focus. The creator behind the layout is BMW Group Design, which made sure to create it in a way that’s characteristic of the brand.

These changes all come as updates to the BMW Operating System 8, which is fitted in current BMW models that feature the Curved Display. Furthermore, the OS is based on the latest-generation infotainment head units, and it’s also responsible for graphic processing.

The new OS, the BMW Operating System 8.5, will be gradually introduced in the Bavarian Group’s midsize, executive, and luxury model ranges. It will still be built on Linux and run on the largest version of the BMW Curved Display. For the brand’s compact-class models, BMW is working on the new Operating System 9, based on Android Open Source Project software.

BMW’s iDrive system isn’t a new development – even though it’s constantly worked on, it was introduced quite a while ago. BMW first launched it in 2001 in the new BMW 7 Series – its primary goal was to enable customers to use one display and one interactive element switch that merges as many functions as possible in order to reduce the number of controls, buttons, and displays.

2024 BMW X2
Photo: CarPix
Back then, there was no touchscreen you could use to control the operating system. Instead, you had the BMW iDrive controller. It worked as a universal control device, just like a mouse, only you had to turn, push, and press it.

With touchscreens constantly increasing in size, it will be interesting to see how displays will look five or ten years from now. Who knows, maybe the entire dashboard will be a touchscreen. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration – some people are excited about having faster, larger, and more optimized touchscreens in their vehicles, but others feel they ruin the interior’s aesthetic. The digital user experience nowadays is dominated by touchscreens, and they’re here to stay. Even though there’s the possibility of using voice commands, it’s hard for them to actually replace the feeling of touch.
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About the author: Mircea Mazuru
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Starting out with a motorcycle permit just because he could get one two years earlier than a driver's license, Mircea keeps his passion for bikes (motor or no motor) alive to this day. His lifelong dream is to build his own custom camper van.
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