BMW engineers gave the background of their iDrive philosophy

Interesting | April 7th, 2009 by 1

The new iDrive system  has come a long way from the previous generation and the overall user experience and usability have improve tremendously.

But as usual, the bimmer fans are curious to find out more about the philosophy behind the iDrive system and most important, why the changes in the new version and the lack of a touchscreen.

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Our friend Richard Aucock has the scoop for us.


Last year, I was sworn to secrecy. A fellow scribe and I nipped into BMW’s uber-secret FIZ development base, to have a swatch at the latest iDrive system. Which was to be installed in the even-more-secret new 7.

Down in the dungeon-like, windowless lair (keeping us away from windows, you see…), the BMW engineers gave the background of their iDrive philosophy.

Now, with old iDrive, turning and prodding 4-leaf ‘Rose’ menu was fine for the turn of the century. But, today, it’s limited. BMW needed a fundamental overhaul of its controller system. As we now know, and was shown to me then, the solution it found is brilliant.

‘We’ve kept the 4-Rose menu as ‘direct’ buttons,’ said the engineers. ‘But, if you’re trained in iDrive, you don’t use the buttons. You do the whole interaction WITHOUT looking at the controller.’

That’s fine, we wagered, but isn’t it even easier to have touchscreen? No, said a horrified engineer. See, touchscreen is absolute: ‘you need to guide your finger all the time, by looking at the screen.’ Imagine, they said, driving along and trying to input a nav destination.

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‘This is a system for driving. We’ve designed iDrive in general to consist evolutionary steps, so you can see where you came from. It doesn’t overload drivers. And is, we feel, far safer.’

Continued here