BMW's ConnectedDrive store will soon let buyers unlock hardware features on their cars


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The big picture: In a recent VR press event, BMW shed light on a number of in-car software features that expand upon the company's digital services portfolio by allowing customers to purchase optional hardware and software features through its ConnectedDrive Store. While the carmaker has previously offered software and customer support services like online speech processing, SOS, and real-time traffic updates as part of the 'Connected Package,' this new experience will offer trials and subscriptions on hardware features built into the car that customers didn't opt for during their purchase.

Modern-day car packaging or trim levels are a highly complex phenomenon. While it's fun to play with online car configurators, speccing your dream model with the right color accent around the a/c vents or ticking only the necessary equipment on the options list, the reality can be somewhat overwhelming given all the bells and whistles on offer.

BMW might have the answer to reducing this complexity as it tries to blend in its sales strategy with the increasingly subscription-based lifestyle of today's consumer. Of course, the company is well-aware of this trend and the repercussions of exploiting it, but the new approach of allowing customers to enable and subscribe to optional creature comforts OTA after they've bought the car is certainly interesting.

Programs of this kind in the car industry have traditionally focused on improving a vehicle's infotainment capabilities, with Tesla being one of the few notable exceptions to truly utilize and scale OTA updates for maintaining and improving its cars beyond the touchscreen.

BMW's idea is to let customers trial and enable vehicle functions and optional equipment on demand through its ConnectedDrive store. This means that the company would ship its cars with optional equipment like blind spot detection, night vision, heated seats or a heated steering wheel, offer them for a limited-time free trial, and then let the owner decide if they want to keep this feature by subscribing for a set period of time.

While BMW won't likely add the cost of optional features to the car's MSRP, since the customer didn't originally request them, the company would initially need to absorb the expense of hardware and installation, which it could then recoup (or even exceed) through customer subscriptions. Additionally, BMW's production and assembly processes might also benefit from this streamlined approach.

"In the near future, we will not only be able to add more functions here, but we will also be able to add even more flexibility for our customers with temporary bookings so booking of options for three years, for one year, or even shorter periods of time, like a few months," a BMW spokesperson told TechCrunch, while also noting the additional flexibility this program will bring to used-car buyers.

The company plans to expand its line-up of optional digital services, which currently include active cruise control with stop/go, high beam assist, and IconicSounds Sport audio tech. The program will be supported on all new models and existing ones running BMW's Operating System 7.

Additionally, the carmaker also showcased its BMW Digital Key, which builds upon Apple's CarKey API added in iOS 14, and lets users unlock their vehicles with their iPhones. There's also a major update arriving for BMW Maps, enabling faster route search, improved traffic data, and the ability to find parking spaces.

The company's cloud-based maps service will also assist hybrid-electric BMW owners in finding charging stations by using fleet data and will automatically switch their vehicles to electric mode when entering low-emission zones in 80 (and expanding) European cities.

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Posts: 3,069   +2,895
So basically it's DLC for cars?

Well I for one refuse to buy any car that doesn't give me all the features I pay for on day one.

You think I'll end up like that guy who bought a used Tesla only to have his autopilot disabled - and then reenabled only because of social media scrutiny?
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Uncle Al

Posts: 7,232   +5,630
If I buy it I own it and should not have ANY restrictions placed against me. This "you only lease it" process started way back with phones, computer games, etc. and should be addressed by the courts and put a stop to. I would go so far as argue this is a form of "indentured servant" which is clearly illegal in the US.


Posts: 3,069   +2,895
If I buy it I own it and should not have ANY restrictions placed against me. This "you only lease it" process started way back with phones, computer games, etc. and should be addressed by the courts and put a stop to. I would go so far as argue this is a form of "indentured servant" which is clearly illegal in the US.

This is much worse really:.

this is them giving you a vehicle with ALL of the features and not allowing you to use them unless you pay for them.

Thing is: because extra features add mass, you absolutely are paying for them with lower fuel efficiency.

It's not exactly the same thing as having a radio with XM or Navigation or navtraffic capable and not paying for the subscription. This is hardware we are talking about that it manufacture disabled. And it's obvious they want to do this to reduce their build SKU.

I will NEVER buy a scam like this.
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Hardware Geek

Posts: 239   +222
This will backfire just like the annual fee they tried to charge for Apple auto. I don't want a car with subscription only hardware. Perhaps they will offer a one time fee option, which still seems slimy. Just another reason not to buy a bmw.


Posts: 429   +493
Aren't these the same morons who wanted to charge an annual fee for letting your phone's CarPlay work?

I'm not sure what market research they are doing, but as someone who has bought multiple high end luxury cars like theirs, I have some sense on how much auto manufacturers and their dealers spend on trying to reach out to people like me.

Do they not realize putting out messages like "we are hellbent on nickle-and-diming you for features you already paid for" is a complete turn-off?

Your car is not a luxury car if it comes with a monthly bill for the basics for to keep working. It is an undesirable POS that will not be coming to my garage anytime soon.


Posts: 43   +15
My response is on point . GFYS

I quite like my '95 Toyota Corolla - does have ABS , 2 airbags , 1 defensive driver. Cost of 1 light bulb $4.
Don't have to pay $70 just to run the diagnosis on it.

By the time I retire - there should be cheap electric bubble cars to short term rent or buy.
Might buy a small camper - use the hell out of it for a couple of years - then flick it off.
Then again I DGAF about cars - they don't impress me , nor their owners - I enjoy people whether rich or poor - though I do appreciate someones passion and craft and this may be expressed through their vehicle


Posts: 23   +8
I wonder if these futuristic cars will one day have antivirus preinstalled. We might see a story here on techspot soon enough on bitcoin mining malware in cars, whereby people's cars battery dies much more frequently.
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Posts: 47   +51
A gamer's wet dream?

They can now have a car and purchase DLC for it. I'm surprised Bethesda didn't jump on the car manufacturing bandwagon a long time ago. They did introduce the infamous horse armor in Oblivion that people paid for....just think of the Fallout themed cars they could have built and all the DLC they could have sold for them!
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Ean Mogg

Posts: 155   +72
Oh dear, anyone who can open their car by smartphone can't be that bright as a smartphone is and has never been a secure device for opening cars ..ever, and car firms are placating the public despite industry warnings, they are doing for reasons I can only guess at, which is criminals back the phones which is easy so I've been told, your car get stolen and the car company replaces said cars making more money for car firms,,
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