I Love BMW
As many of my fair readers and friends know, I took a long time shopping
for a lot of cars before settling in on my BMW 340i. It took me well over
4 months to consider everything from VW, Audi, Mazda, Jaguar, Volvo,
Lexus, Mercedes, Maserati, and BMW. I did a ton of research, test drove
many cars, and really thought deeply about what I needed, what I wanted,
what I hated, what made me happy.
I loved my Jetta SportWagen and am still really pissed off at VW for the diesel scandal.
Nevertheless, once I actually drove the BMW, I was hooked, line and
sinker. The car is beautiful, slate gray, brown leather interior, loud
engine that gives all the kick you need to drive like a complete asshole.
Which is funny for me. I learned to drive in the 1980s in Northern
Virginia. Back then, BMWs were reserved for the complete and utter douche
bags of the beltway. We mocked the men with small hands who had to drive
a sports car to feel good about themselves, but couldn’t afford a real
sport car so they did their best Bret Easton Ellis and drove their 3
series. BMW was just known for only having jerks behind the wheel.
Now it’s clearly Audi.
And now I’m older and realize that while I’ve always been an aggressive
driver, I actually have the machine to deliver on my attitude. I am that
jerk behind the wheel and no one cares if I have tiny hands (which I do,
by the way.)
I have to admit that BMW’s implementation of CarPlay and BMW Connect was
enough to make me cry. I seriously wondered what I was doing with my
life, propagating telematics services that might have been conceived with
the best intentions, but failing miserably on implementation. I know why
it fails on execution, but it still breaks my heart. And to be clear,
BMW’s telematics are total and complete crap. Obviously, part of the
problem is that people do not know they exist, what they do, or how to use
them. Even me, with 18 years of telematics experience under my belt,
struggled with BMW Connect.
CarPlay buzzes when engaged in a voice call, which isn’t Apple’s fault,
but clearly BMW’s misguided audio engineering. CarPlay does have some
serious limitations including:
• Squirrely connectivity
• A map, of sorts, that is flat out embarrassing and completely useless (the embedded
navi maps that came with the car are great! And they stay up to date,
free of charge! Okay, maybe BMW Connect doesn’t completely suck….)
• Navigation between features is awkward and clunky
• Most seriously, it does not play nice with Waze
When using Waze while engaged in CarPlay, CarPlay will shut down access to
audio so, I cannot listen to the radio and look at Waze. That
singlehandedly made me disengage CarPlay all together. The buzzing voice
calls is pretty horrific as well, but killing audio while on Waze? Fuck
off. Waze wins.
CarPlay is great on voice to text and iTunes isn’t horrible thanks to nice
curated playlists, but it’s a data hog beyond all repair. I was so vexed
by my earliest interactions with BMW Connect and CarPlay that I created a
PowerPoint deck, shared it with my team at Aeris, a few friends at
competitors to BMW who are in telematics, and tracked down the gent that
runs BMW Connect and sent him a copy. He had a customer service rep
contact me immediately.
Things did improve. BMW issued a new and much improved application,
CarPlay updated their system so, things are better. The buzzing still
exists and CarPlay still fights with Waze. Oh, I did try the Amazon Alexa
integration with BMW and it is embarrassingly terrible and useless. I was
able to remotely turn on my climate control, but not turn it off nor
figure out how long the HVAC would run. A very, very serious miss. Alexa
has a long way to go.
While I was totally expecting to love the car, I was not expecting to love
the brand. It was the brand of jerks! However, with one single product
announcement, BMW gave me serious brand affinity I could get behind for a
lifetime. So, what pray tell, besides a fabulous machine, has turned a
jaded corporate hack into singing the praises of a car company?
BMW’s CarData. My car. My data. My control. I love it.
They have finally cracked the nut on data, privacy, and monetization.
It’s simple and it’s right. The data my BMW 340i creates is mine and mine
alone to decide with whom to share, when, and when to say no.
I was speaking at a panel for Future Privacy Forum a while back and was
asked about how people can protect the data they create using telematics
services. I have consistently said (and helped put policies that in
place) that telematics data is owned by the vehicle owner. The person
creating the data owns the data. Anyone accessing or doing anything with
it must be transparent and get explicit permission. Transparency breeds
trust and car companies need owner’s trust. As an economist, I suggested
to the panel that I could easily see a market place evolve where the
vehicle owner is given complete control over their data and an auction
place or a bazaar develops curated by the automaker.
I was gently mocked and given some outright incredulous looks. I was told
this idea has been around a long time, but have yet to materialize. Then
again, I do not often mistake a clear view with a short distance so, I get
that the idea is not new and it seems odd to take so long to come to
fruition, but I’ve worked in automotive for a long time so, I know it
moves at a glacial pace.
And I was right! Not just a little right, but nailed the timing to boot
by being a BMW owner! Whooooo hooooooo! I plan to stick with the brand
for the rest of my life. And I plan to live a very long time.