Vehicles are more connected than ever, which means stable internet is a must.
BMW is reportedly examining the possibility of bringing satellite-based Internet access to its future models. According to a new report from Automotive News, the German automaker is fully aware its customers rightly expect reliable and constant Internet access in their vehicles.
"We're looking at satellite communication, especially in an environment where cellphone reception is not good," said Stephan Durach, BMW Group's senior vice president of its connected company development unit. "A lot of places in Europe and the US, you don't have sufficient coverage."
The technology being examined is called non-terrestrial network technology, which offers potentially strong and consistent connectivity. Aside from drivers and passengers having reliable access to tech like infotainment systems and video streaming, automakers are quickly becoming reliant upon over-the-air software updates.
This allows owners to unlock additional features as well as receive vital software improvements and fixes.
Polestar, for example, just released an OTA update for its Polestar 2 EV that unlocks an additional 68 horsepower. New BMWs, like the i7 flagship EV sedan, are no different in this regard. But automakers can only develop stronger Internet connectivity so far, thus they have to rely on private companies to aid their efforts.
One such company for constant connectivity could be Elon Musk's Starlink. It utilizes over 3,000 satellites orbiting our fine planet. They beam down high-speed broadband to some of the most remote parts of Earth and countries that desperately need internet, such as Ukraine.
Aside from BMW, China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group has its own space tech division that recently launched its own low-orbit satellites to provide its vehicles with strong Internet and numerous cloud computing capabilities. Fast-emerging autonomous vehicle technology also requires strong and reliable connectivity for obvious reasons. Of course, having a reliable multi-satellite network is not an easy task.
"Technology-wise, you need a pretty tricky field array antenna which is looking for the satellites," Durach said. "We are trying to figure out if we can find a meaningful application in the car."
The good news is that costs are coming down for a major satellite infrastructure. This doesn't mean BMW will have one up and running immediately but it is a promising sign for what will hopefully be coming in the next few years.