Contain chaos. Control clutter.
An operating system that could seamlessly control every secondary system within your vehicle would not only be convenient, it would be revolutionary. That was BMW’s thought in 2001 when it released its iDrive system for public use.
For the first time, a vehicle manufacturer not only designed but also realized a system that would control, contain and organise the intricate details of our busy lives.
Since its inception, it has been reproduced by a variety of luxury brands who are all seeking the same means of organising all of our important things, but none have yet to beat BMW’s iDrive for functionality and style.
BMW first released the iDrive on its high-end 7-Series model. It was previously featured in 1999 on their Z9 concept model, but it was not made available to the public until two years later. That was when it shook the earth and consumers globally witnessed the potential of this ground-breaking technology. Today it is available in most current models, including the 3-Series and even BMW’s X5 and X6 models as a user-friendly means of having all secondary vehicle controls in one centralized unit.
The system is designed in two parts. The first is a glare-free, high-resolution LCD screen mounted into the dashboard of the vehicle. It is controlled by the second element, an interactive knob affixed to the center console. Certain models also have a secondary knob offered for the backseat as well. Many models are now also equipped with a voice control option, allowing the driver to completely control many of the vehicle’s functions while maintaining focus on the road.
Together, these two pieces of equipment present an intuitive way to control the vehicle’s climate options (air conditioning and heating) and audio controls (cd and radio) as well as its communication and navigation systems. It is a user-friendly system easily operated by the driver with one hand and has been developed according to the most modern biometric principles, as stated by BMW. The four most commonly used features: CD, radio, telephone and navigation have been assigned to buttons placed above the controller knob. Since 2007, BMW has added another eight buttons to the dashboard that can be programmed as you wish with such go-to’s as your favorite radio stations, CD titles, phone numbers and destinations, to name a few.
The menus follows standard computing methods, meaning that it can be used intuitively, as easily as you would your desktop computer at home. The system’s clear visual aids and clean-cut animation make it easy to follow. When the iDrive was first released, it was met with a certain level of scepticism regarding the facility of use for it. BMW has since proved that it is looking to improve accessibility, not hinder it, and that much is evident.
As an accessibility aid, the iDrive controlling knob is based around the points of a compass, which each direction corresponding to a specific function.
These points are all color-coded, with blue (north) representing communication, green (east) being for navigation, brown (south) is for entertainment and finally red (west) standing for climate control. The iDrive comes with two different options for operating systems, the iDrive Business (M-ASK), which does not come with a navigation option, and the iDrive Professional (CCC), which does. For the M-ASK version, the navigation option on the green point of the controlling knob is replaced with an on board computer.
When at the iDrive’s home screen, the control knob can be pushed downwards to access the iMenu, which is the control panel for the system and allows the user access to a variety of operational parameters.
BMW’s iDrive is a decidedly innovative control system that cleans up the entire aesthetic of your vehicle by replacing the array of controls and switches on the dash with one easy to use architecture. That was their goal in creating it, to centralize and organise the clutter into one specific location while leaving all of the necessary safety and operational controls as they are in the immediate vicinity of the steering column. Even the height and width of the control display is optimally placed for the convenience of the driver, in true BMW fashion.