State-of-the-art cloud services at Ford and BMW

Car clouds part 2 State-of-the-art cloud services at Ford and BMW

Cloud-based services make driving easier in many ways: They make driving safer and offer extra convenience when navigating, searching for a parking space or playing music. BMW and Ford also use several services that customers can use directly in their respective vehicles.

providers on the matter

Digital assistance systems, for example for range calculation, are essential for electric propulsion (pictured is a model from the Ford Mach E Mustang SUV range).

(Image: Ford)

The era of modern infotainment began at Ford as early as 2013, as soon as Microsoft had developed the appropriate software for entering and processing voice commands from the driver. NLP processing requires high computing power – and now additional AI functionality, for example for voice output. At Ford today, Sync 4A is the latest in communication and entertainment technology. Thanks to cloud-based connectivity, you can live a special driving experience with interactive functions. “This includes optimized route planning with real-time traffic predictions and intelligent voice control with easy-to-use commands,” says Ford.

The system also learns the driver’s preferences over time, automatically adjusts the functions that appear and makes useful suggestions to the respective driver along the way. Regular over-the-air Ford Power-Up software updates also ensure that features can be improved and new features added. Along with the integration of a wireless smartphone, a 15.5-inch touch screen (screen diagonal 39.3 cm) and clear charging management for electric vehicles, the driver will have more comfort.

Currently, Ford SYNC 4A is exclusive to the Ford Mustang Mach-E, as this model has twice the processing power of its predecessor. For some features of SYNC 3, the predecessor, drivers simply bring their smartphone with them. Ford supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Navigation and voice control

SYNC 4A’s cloud-based connectivity allows content and services to be constantly updated. Map material is always up-to-date thanks to automatic updates The cloud connection also offers intelligent route planning with real-time traffic predictions. In addition, drivers have access to additional information such as current weather forecasts and convenient charging stations along the route.

In the Ford Mustang Mach E3, an electric vehicle, a tablet displays performance data.  Where the dashboard used to be, the driver (behind the wheel) sees the most important key element: the battery charge range.
In the Ford Mustang Mach E3, an electric vehicle, a tablet displays performance data. Where the dashboard used to be, the driver (behind the wheel) sees the most important key element: the battery charge range.

(Image: Ford)

Ford SYNC 4A features an intelligent language assistant whose speech understanding is continuously further developed via the cloud, meaning the assistant learns from the driver and not the other way around. With easy-to-use voice commands – available in a digital manual – many functions can be controlled while driving: navigation, playing music and making calls.

Software updates on the go

The software is updated using the cloud and the Power Up function. Thus, the SNYC4A “operating system” is continuously provided with updates, which in turn serve to improve performance, quality – such as speech processing – and comfort. The vehicle automatically downloads most updates. Larger updates can be installed over WLAN.

Ford SYNC 4A compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto should enable wireless smartphone integration (AppLink) and access to smartphone apps. System functions, such as a route, can be accessed by mirroring the driver’s smartphone screen on the SYNC 3’s 20.3 cm (8″) touchscreen.

Equipping cars with head-up displays (HUD) – here at Mercedes-Benz – is one of the classic electronic add-ons.  (Daimler AG)

The cloud at BMW

In December 2020, the BMW Group entered into an agreement with AWS for extensive cooperation: “The BMW Group and AWS are working together to accelerate data-driven innovations in the automotive industry. AWS and the BMW Group will jointly develop innovative cloud-enabled solutions and train up to 5000 software engineers on BMW Group-owned cloud technologies.”

“The BMW Group is driving digitization and innovation in the automotive industry,” said Alexander Buresch, CIO and Senior Vice President, BMW Group IT. “We put data at the heart of what we do, and we look forward to working with AWS to pool our talents, continue to raise the bar for automotive innovation, and bring exciting new experiences to our customers around the world.”

The main vehicle systems showing use in the cloud are BMW iDrive – for electronic cars like the iX – and BMW Connected Drive. These two systems, based on the new BMW Operating System 8, are updated with the help of remote software updates. Additional services can be booked. The operating system supports Amazon Alexa Car Integration, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Personal and smart

In a BMW iX with iDrive, the software can be updated while driving.
In a BMW iX with iDrive, the software can be updated while driving.

(Image: BMW)

iDrive should offer an individually customizable user experience, for example with the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, which enables a large number of functions to be operated via voice dialogue. With ‘MyModes’, drivers enable an ‘immersive experience’ by individually tuning the digital design, interior lighting and sound. Drivers can securely store such personal settings as ‘performance’, ‘sport’ or ‘personal’ in their BMW ID and retrieve them in every BMW if they wish. With “Learning Navigation”, the corresponding vehicle learns habits linked to the individual BMW ID and anticipates the driver’s next destination. Artificial intelligence is already at work here.

When it comes to safety, BMW has also digitized everything. This includes the BMW Digital Key Plus on the smartphone, with which a vehicle can be unlocked automatically and exclusively when approaching. A digital key can be created with the My BMW app and stored on a compatible iPhone. If the physical key is stolen or lost, you can still use the DigitalKey. An eSIM card is required for connectivity and allows unlimited music streaming via Spotify. From mid-2022, the vehicle is set to become a WiFi hotspot that will support, among other things, 5G high-speed internet.

First see, then buy: The Audi VR Experience allows customers to see the car of their dreams in an immersive visual environment using VR glasses.  (Audi AG)

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