Over the weekend, a BMW i4 owner posted a photo to Twitter of their car declining to perform an over-the-air update due to it being parked on too steep of an angle. That raised a ton of eyebrows and both BMW and the i4 became the butt end of EV criticism. However, there’s actually a pretty good reason for the i4’s flat ground requirement.

BMWBLOG reached out to BMW about this and a spokesperson revealed the list of requirements for any BMW vehicle to perform an over-the-air update:

  • The vehicle needs to be in an active remote software upgrade (RSU) campaign
  • The download needs to be completed (fully automatically via vehicle SIM or via BMW Connected App, also fully automatically when correctly setup (see note below))
  • Sufficient battery charging level
  • Vehicle not parked on an incline
  • Transmission must be in Park and the parking brake set
  • Engine must be off

Most of those are pretty self-explanatory but the incline thing is a bit curious. However, a software engineer that worked on that exact function took to Twitter to explain why the car must be parked on a flat surface for the update to happen: “I worked on the team that implemented this. It’s 7 %, if I remember correctly, and as others have speculated it is a safety measure related to the electronic parking brake. Wouldn’t want your car to roll down a hill in the unlikely event that the software flash of the [electronic parking brake] fails.” he said.

Obviously, the software update doesn’t cause the electronic parking brake to fail. However, software glitches happen and, in the unlikely event of such a glitch causing the parking brake to fail, BMW doesn’t want the car rolling and killing someone. So it’s actually quite a good safety feature.

Some EV fans (just take a guess the brand) will mock this feature but legacy automakers are constantly thinking of worst case scenario safety features. That’s why legacy automakers are so cautious when it comes to developing things like self-driving tech. So the BMW i4 won’t OTA update when on a hill, which is inconvenient for anyone who’s driveway is on a steep angle. However, it’s probably for the best, just in case something unexpected were to happen.