iDrive is a computer system used to control most secondary vehicle systems in many current BMW cars. iDrive had its world premiere in 2001, debuting with the new BMW 7 Series (E65). iDrive unifies vehicle systems under a single control architecture for convenient use by the driver. The iDrive controls consists of a LCD panel mounted in the dashboard and a controller knob mounted on the center console.
iDrive introduced the first multiplexed MOST Bus/Byteflight optical fiber databusses with very high bit rate in a production vehicle. These are used for high-speed applications such as controlling the television, DVD, or driver assistance systems like adaptive cruise control, infrared night vision or head-up display.
iDrive allows the driver and front-seat passenger (in some recent cars it is available to back-seat passengers as well) to control such amenities as the climate (air conditioner and heater), the audio system (radio and CD player), the navigation system and the communication system.
- 1 iDrive Generations
- 2 Rationale
- 3 Controversy
- 4 Similar systems
- 5 Overview
- 6 References
- 7 External links
iDrive (1st Gen)
An early prototype iDrive (called the Intuitive Interaction Concept) was featured on the BMW Z9 concept in 1999. Series production version debuted in September 2001 with the BMW 7 Series (E65) and was based on Microsoft Windows CE for Automotive.
This can easily be seen when the system reboots or restarts after a software crash displaying a "Windows CE" logo.
The first generation of iDrive controllers in the 7-Series was only equipped with the turn knob. The GPS computer (located in the trunk) was only capable of reading map CDs. ("NAV01")
In October 2003, a menu and a customizable button was added to the controller. The new GPS computer ("NAV02") was updated to DVD, featured a much faster processor and the ability to display the map in birdview ("perspective").
In April 2005, the iDrive controller was changed again, the turn knob having a new leather top. The last hardware update of the GPS unit ("NAV03") got a faster processor again. The map display is antialiased. The 8.8" wide-screen display was updated, having a brighter screen and the ability to control a MP3 capable 6 CD-changer or a BMW iPod Interface. Possible options include a TV tuner, DVD changer, BMW Night Vision, side view camera and a rear view camera.
The iDrive system on the 7-Series E65/E66/E67/E68 has no special name and may not be mistaken with the newer generations called CCC (Car Communications Computer) and CIC (Car Information Computer). (see below) This fact becomes very important with after-market retrofits like multimedia and video interfaces, because the most of them are only compatible to the CCC system. But many manufactures list the "7-Series E65/E66/E67/E68 with CCC" in their compatibility charts although no 7-Series E65/E66/E67/E68 with CCC exist.
iDrive Business (M-ASK)
M-ASK stands for MMI Audio System controller and is manufactured by Becker. This is a limited version of the iDrive computer with a small 6.6" display and is only found on 5, 6 and 7-series, and the X5 or X6, without the navigation option.
In addition it can optionally be ordered in Europe on the 1-series and 3-series as "Business navigation", which has basic navigation abilities. Early versions of the Business navigation could only display directional arrows, but the latest version can also display 2D maps. iDrive Business Navigation uses a different map DVD than iDrive Professional Navigation. In addition, as only one optical drive is available, one cannot use both navigation and listen to a CD simultaneously.
When iDrive Professional is ordered the M-ASK system is replaced by either the CCC or CIC in addition to a larger display.
iDrive Business is available on the following cars;
- iDrive Business Navigation (optional)
- iDrive Business (default when navigation is not ordered)
Note that the above list can vary depending on the region. For instance the North American 7-Series come by default with CCC or CIC.
It debuted in 2003 with the E60/E61 5-Series and is based on Wind River VxWorks, a real-time operating system. CCC stands for Car Communication Computer and uses a larger 8.8" wide-screen display. It was available on the following cars as an option;
- 1-Series E81/E82/E87/E88 manufactured until March 2007
- 3-Series E90/E91/E92/E93 manufactured until March 2007
- 5-Series E60/E61 manufactured until March 2007
- 6-Series E63/E64 manufactured until March 2007
CCC based systems use a map DVD from Navteq in a dedicated DVD drive.
CCC - Update 1
This is a minor update to iDrive Professional debuted in March 2007. It adds additional programmable buttons in the dashboard to directly access frequent functions and it removes the haptic feedback from the iDrive controller. It is available on the following cars as an option;
- 1-Series E81/E82/E87/E88 manufactured between March 2007 and September 2008
- 3-Series E90/E91/E92/E93 manufactured between March 2007 and August 2008
- 5-Series E60/E61 manufactured between March 2007 and August 2008
- 6-Series E63/E64 manufactured between March 2007 and August 2008
- X5 E70 manufactured until MY2010
- X6 E71
CCC - Update 2
This is a minor update debuted in September 2008 to iDrive Professional equipped cars that did not get the new CIC based system. These cars get the new iDrive controller that is also used on cars with CIC. The actual iDrive computer (CCC) remains the same. This update is available on the following cars;
- 5-Series E60/E61 manufactured in September 2008 to August 2009
- 6-Series E63/E64 manufactured in September 2008 to August 2009
It debuted in September 2008 with F01/F02 7-Series. CIC stands for Car Information Computer and is manufactured by Becker, utilizing the QNX operating system. It is available on the following cars as an option;
- 1-Series E81/E82/E87/E88 manufactured from September 2008
- 3-Series E90/E91/E92/E93 manufactured from September 2008
- 5-Series E60/E61 manufactured from March 2009 (E60/61 manufactured from September 2008 in Europe)
- 5-Series F07/F10/F11 manufactured from September 2009
- 6-Series E63/E64 manufactured from September 2009
- 7-Series F01/F02 manufactured from September 2008
- X5 E70 manufactured from September 2009 
The CIC system is a major update to iDrive, replacing the display, computer and the controller. The display is of a higher resolution, and is generally more responsive than CCC, to address one of the common complaints of iDrive. Internet access is also supported.
CIC-based systems use maps from TeleAtlas that are installed on an internal 2.5" 80GB Hard Disk Drive (HDD). This HDD can also store up to 8GB of music files for playback. For facilitating the uploading of music files to the HDD, a USB port is provided in the glove box.
Following 2009 LCI production, all CIC-based iDrive systems support DVD video. This, however, is only operational when the vehicle is in the "Park" position for automatic transmissions, or while the parking brake is set for vehicles that have a manual transmission. DVD audio will continue to play while driving.
BMW introduced a further update to the iDrive Professional System in late 2012, calling it the "Next Big Thing" (NBT). It was introduced in current generation cars as an option, including:
- 1-Series F20
- 2-Series F22/F23
- 3-Series F30
- 4-Series F32/F33/F36
- 5-Series F10
- 7-Series F01
The update includes extensive hardware and software changes including cosmetic enhancements, faster processor, more memory, larger hard drive, detailed 3D maps and improved routing.
The design rationale of iDrive is to replace an array of controls for the above systems with an all-in-one unit. The controls necessary for vehicle control and safety, such as the headlights and turn signals, are still located in the immediate vicinity of the steering column. Since, in the rationale of the designers, the air conditioning, car audio, navigation and communication controls are not used equally often, they have been moved into a central location.
iDrive caused significant controversy among users, the automotive media, and critics when it was first introduced. Many reviewers of BMW vehicles in automobile magazines disapproved of the system. Criticisms of iDrive included its steep learning curve and its tendency to cause the driver to look away from the road too much. Most users report that they adapt to the system after about one hour of practice, and the advent of voice controls has reduced the learning curve greatly.
A new iDrive system (CIC) was introduced in September 2008 to address most of the complaints. CIC-HIGH, introduced in 2012, brought further improvements.
Despite the criticisms of iDrive, the concept of a computer-oriented interface has grown in the luxury segment of the industry, which includes:
- Cadillac User Experience (CUE), Cadillac
- MMI, Audi
- COMAND APS, Mercedes-Benz
- Remote Touch, Lexus
- Honda Satellite-Linked System, Honda/Acura
- MyFord Touch/MyLincoln Touch, Ford/Lincoln
- CarPlay, computer company Apple Inc.'s iOS-based system
- Android Auto, computer company Google's Android-based system
The iDrive M-ASK and CCC systems are based around the points of a compass (north, south, east, west) with each direction corresponding with a specific area. These areas are also colour-coded providing identification as to which part of the system is currently being viewed.
- North (blue) for communication
- East (green) for navigation (In some models without navigation, this option is replaced by the On Board Computer)
- South (brown) for entertainment
- West (red) for climate control
Also, at the iDrive home screen, the control knob can be pushed downwards to provide access to the car's control panel (iMenu), which gives access to a variety of operational parameters.
Starting in 2007, iDrive added programmable buttons (6 USA/Japan, 8 in Europe) to the dashboard, breaking tradition of having the entire system operated via the control knob. Each button can be programmed to instantly access any feature within iDrive (such as a particular navigation route, or one's favorite radio station). In addition, a dedicated AM/FM button, and a Mode button (to switch between entertainment sources) were added (only United States)
iDrive is controlled by manipulating the control knob. This can be pushed north, south, east, west, inwards (down) or rotated left and right. The iDrive system includes a button marked "Menu" behind the control knob that provides quick access to the home screen.
iDrive is unique among its competitors by using a widescreen display that is split into a 2/3 main window, and 1/3 "Assistance Window". This allows the driver to use a function or menu, while simultaneously maintaining secondary information. For example, if the driver is not in the Navigation menu, he or she can still see a map on the assistance window. Other information that can be displayed includes navigation route directions and a trip computer.
- 2011 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé -- Car Tour, YouTube.com, July 24, 2011, Accessed August 2, 2011.
- "Microsoft Technology Hits the Road in BMW 7 Series" (Press release). Microsoft. 2002-03-04. Retrieved 2007-12-02.
- Spira, Jonathan B. (2007-08-28). "BMW iDrive 6 years in: The world's best cockpit controller?". BMW Car Club of America. Retrieved 2007-12-02.
- "BMW X5 and X6 to get the new iDrive System in September". Retrieved 1 July 2013.
- Hill, Brandon (2007-12-03). "BMW Develops IP-Based Networking for Next-Gen Vehicles". DailyTech.com. Retrieved 2007-12-03.
- "INTRODUCING THE NEXT GENERATION BMW MULTI-MEDIA INTERFACE (MMI).". BMW GROUP. May 2012. Retrieved 2013-06-02.
- blog post regarding difficulties using iDrive
- JAMES G. COBB (May 12, 2002). "Menus Behaving Badly". New York Times. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
- Jasper van Kuijk (December 24, 2007). "More iDrive Reviews; the Evolution of a Bad Idea". the product usability weblog. Retrieved January 18, 2008.