The BMW iDrive system is an onboard computer that has been incorporated in the new 745i. This car has been called, and rightly so, "the first car designed around a user interface." The computer runs an operating system based on Microsoft's Windows CE and is controlled by a rotating knob located on the center console. The information is displayed on a small lcd display to the right of the driver. The system allows the driver to control almost every aspect of operating an automobile from this tiny knob. The iDrive system even has a GPS navigation system built in that is fully accessible through use of the small knob
How Does it Function?
The iDrive controller in itself is quite complex. It uses an advanced "force feedback" mechanism called "tactile feedback" in order to let the user know what he/she is selecting without ever taking their eyes off of the road. It works by giving the user a sensation when they scroll through the menus and press down to select options. The tactile feedback creates a resistance which is felt by the user, and through the use of different types and amounts of feedback the user can tell which submenu they are currently navigating.
What can it do?
Through the menus the user can access a vast array of information and functions. The different submenus include, navigation, entertainment, information, my vehicle, and a telephone directory. Under the navigation menu the user can access the GPS navigation, get directions, and view maps. The entertainment menu allows the user to manage their music; video capabilities are currently in development. The "my vehicle" menu contains the driver's manual, information on tire pressures, etc. The information menu can access the news, weather reports, and sports news. The iDrive system is an all in one automotive computer with an innovative control mechanism.
What do people think of it?
While the iDrive system offers the driver a slew of features at their fingertips, many argue that the system is difficult to use. A review entitled "Driven to Distraction" from redherring.com states that "[the iDrive system] is not immediately intuitive" and recommends that the user practice using the system before taking to the road. Yet another negative review from pistonheads.com states,
As you'd expect, it's a bloody great vault, with enough deformable steel and high-speed airbags to protect its occupants from anything short of a SAM missile strike. But not from yourself. Thanks to its revolutionary iDrive controller and centrally mounted colour information screen, BMW's top-of-the-line motor encourages you to take your eyes off the road long enough to plough into a solid object.
While all reviews might not be positive, iDrive is the first system of it's kind. Whether you love it ,or hate it, it is the first step between integrating a new generation of electronics into the cars of tomorrow.