"Alexa, what's the time in Germany?"
Starting on Feb 22nd, 2021, BMW is embarking on its biggest Over-The-Air (OTA) software upgrade yet. Even bigger than BMW's last OTA, it will be the largest roll-out of an OTA update by any European automaker to date. BMW is starting the update campaign with over 1 million vehicles from over 20 model lineups. The most significant upgrade is what BMW calls "deep integration of the voice assistant Amazon Alexa," but other updates include an upgrade to the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, BMW Driver Profile, and Active Navigation. There is a caveat, though, and the availability of services and functions will vary depending on country and equipment features.
BMW's Alexa integration will allow customers to use the voice assistant in their car as they do in their home. However, North American BMW owners will have to be patient as the Alexa rollout will start in Germany, Austria, Spain, and Italy first. The UK will then get the voice assistant update at the end of March.
Other features added include BMW owners' ability to transfer their personal BMW driver profile to other cars, such as rentals, using the My BMW app and a QR code. Enthusiasts will enjoy the addition of BMW M Laptimer to their vehicles and will be able to call up the data gathered so they can analyze it later.
The upgrade to the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant doesn't look meaningful as BMW only points out that saying, "Hey BMW, what does a BMW M8 sound like?" will give a "stirring aural accompaniment to sports performance," which seems a little kitsch in our books. Smaller "function enhancements" include an easier route to delete personal data and an updated digital owner's handbook.
BMW's excellent Operating System 7 and the Remote Software Upgrade system have been in place since 2018. If you have a BMW with Operating System 7 manufactured after November 2020, then you already have the latest version with the new functions. Those functions are also dependent on the vehicle's features and country.