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Smart cars to miss a few connections

Remote control: BMW says it may hit a few roadblocks while rolling out parts of its i3 technology in Australia.

Australia throws up a few problems for new generation of connected cars

BMW logo24 Sep 2013

By BARRY PARK

THE connected car is coming to Australia – although the problem is that no one can say for sure just how connected it will be.

Apple is remaining coy about the level of inter-connectivity with cars after the release of its latest software and a new phone to support it all.

Earlier this year, the computing and software giant spelled out plans to integrate the latest version of its mobile device operating system, called iOS 7, with cars to offer a host of iPhone-based features normally built into vehicles.

However, according to Apple’s Australian director of corporate communications, Fiona Martin, the software’s release date is still shrouded in mystery.

“iOS in the Car is coming soon,” she said in response to a question from GoAuto asking about a potential release date in Australia.

“Until we announce availability, I have no further details as to what will be available in Australia specifically,” she said.

The software aims to help drivers with virtual services, such as a commute summary that will suggest if it is better to catch the train than drive to work, the Siri virtual assistant that can even take an address out of an email and load it into the satellite navigation software.

However, one aspect of the software that Apple declined to comment on was how much of the software’s functionality available in the US and Europe would also be available here – a question luxury car-maker BMW is struggling with in the lead-up to the launch of its first-ever electric car.

BMW’s i3 battery-powered city hatchback is due on sale in Australia about 10 months’ time, with the vehicle slated to introduce a raft of new technology that will keep owners in touch with their vehicles via smartphones.

According to BMW Australia general manager of corporate communications, Lenore Fletcher, the car-maker is unlikely to adapt all of the functionality of its ConnectedDrive software that links the car with smartphones.

She said a limiting factor for the software was a lack of infrastructure needed to feed data into the car’s apps, which would help it get around the megacities of the world as efficiently as possible.

“Our intention is to have the entire 360-degree Electric solution in Australia, including ConnectedDrive and (smartphone) apps,” Ms Fletcher told GoAuto.

“We’re currently working on it, and we intend to get as many features as we can that are supported (in Australia).

“It’s part of the point of the car,” she said.

BMW last week released a new video showing some of the smartphone-based functions that will be available to overseas owners at the launch of the battery-powered i3.

The software, which is available on both Apple-based iPhones and Android devices, remotely shows the status of the i3, including its battery status, driving range and recharge time.

The range of the vehicle will also show up on a map, with separate ranges for all-electric, eco-electric and range-extended mode for those owners who opt for a three-cylinder engine under the hood that recharges the batteries on the fly.

Owners can also use their phone to select the nearest recharging station to the car, or even navigate to an address in the phone’s contacts list.

Ms Fletcher said it was important to try and have a smartphone app for the i3 that would be intelligent enough to suggest to a driver that it was better to park the car and catch public transport rather than drive.

“All of the things that this (i3 connectivity) does is come back to the 360 managed mobility,” she said.

“But we are still looking at what features and apps are right for Australia.”

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