BMW Operating System 7 is its biggest update ever: Here's what's new

BMW is readying its biggest infotainment update so far for imminent release, with broad-ranging changes including new mapping features, wireless Android Auto, and support for Apple's upcoming iPhone Digital Key feature in iOS 14. BMW Operating System 7 will be preloaded on new models from July 2020, starting with the new 5 Series. However many existing owners can expect it too.

That roll-out will start from Q3 2020, BMW says, though so far it hasn't shared a public list of which vehicles will be compatible with OS 7. Those that are supported will receive it as a free, over-the-air upgrade. One of the most controversial features will be the newly-expanded BMW ConnectedDrive Store, which will allow drivers to temporarily purchase access to vehicle functionality they didn't buy on day one.

BMW Maps

Perhaps the most obvious change, though, will be to the mapping system. The new BMW Maps leans heavily on the cloud, tapping vehicles' embedded data connection for smarter routing.

There'll be free text input in the search bar, or natural-language searches by voice instead. Search results will include contextual information now, too, such as business hours and ratings. There'll also be parking status, with predictions as to how likely finding street parking will be, identifying open spaces, and even taking into account the vehicle's size so you're not left trying to squeeze an X7 into a gap more suited to an M2.

Although the cars will be able to figure out routes offline, with the addition of the cloud there'll be real-time traffic information taken into account as well. BMW will blend that with historical and predicted data, automatically adjusting the route according to changes in the road conditions. Indeed, each BMW with the system will act as an road traffic data point, feeding back anonymized information on current flow and congestion levels.

With increasing numbers of cities setting up so-called "green zones" where only electrified vehicles are permitted, BMW is also adding eDrive Zones support. Compatible plug-in hybrids will automatically switch to pure-EV mode when they enter such zones.

Connected Charging

Making EV ownership more straightforward is a general area of focus for BMW OS 7, especially as the automaker readies itself for upcoming models like the iNEXT. New charger management features will support scheduling, historic charge records, and push-notifications, while public charger data will also be boosted. That will now not only show a charger's location, but availability, which network they belong to, opening hours, and more.

Points of interest near each location are also going to be listed, and the newly-optimized route planner for EVs will be able to proactively add charger stopovers to a planned journey. Fully electrified vehicle's will now show a blue overlay on the map, indicating the driving potential from what charge currently remains.

iPhone Digital Key and wireless Android Auto

For those with a recent iPhone and iOS 14, BMW is adding support for Digital Key functionality as announced last week at WWDC 2020. That will use NFC to authenticate access to the car via an iPhone, as well as permit sharing – temporary or long-term – with other drivers.

Although the new 2021 BMW 5 Series is the headline vehicle for iPhone Digital Key, in actual fact pretty much any BMW produced from this month will support the technology. That'll include the ability to limit certain features depending on who has access, such as capping top speed and horsepower for younger or less-experienced drivers.

For Android users, meanwhile, BMW is enabling not only Android Auto, but the wireless version. That still remains a relative rarity in the car world right now. There'll be support not only for the car's display in the center console, but things like Google Maps guidance in the instrument cluster and, if fitted, the head-up display.

BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant is getting chattier

BMW's voice control system is getting new functionality with BMW OS 7, including more conversational interactions. There'll be the ability to control vehicle features, such as open and close the windows, or to switch between the different driving modes.

BMW is promising more proactive support from the assistant, too, proffering possible voice commands on the display depending on context. There'll also be better differentiation between the driver and the passenger, depending on who's speaking.

Arguably most useful, though, will be ways in which the assistant can help with day to day life without even being asked. New automated routines will support triggering certain features depending on time or location. For example, BMW suggests, you could set it up to automatically open the driver's window when you're entering your work parking garage so that you can scan your pass.