By on February 23, 2009

When developing new car gadgetry, automakers are faced with making a very basic assumption about their potential customers. Are we the consumers willing to trade our fundamental, if somewhat-anarchistic, assumptions of freedom for some wimpy, gas saving benefit? From accident black boxes to driver-behavior monitors, most red-blooded pistonheads say, hell no! Apparently BMW reckons that more people want toys than want (perceived) freedom. And they’re developing an intelligent navigation system that will learn your driving habits to prove it.

ILENA (Intelligent Learning Navigation) is a BMW project which intends to record your daily driving habits, in order to increase the efficiency of your car. Say, does your everyday commute involve a quick blast from 0-50 to merge on the freeway? Using ILENA, your car will pro-actively subtract power from the aircon and select a later shifting point for the auto transmission. The car’s camera learns to identify your regular route, the road’s gradients, curves, and braking points. Andreas Winkler, ILENA’s project head, says “using all this information, the navigation system generates an electronic horizon which helps in energy management”. Another example: ILENA would make sure that the battery of a hybrid vehicle would be fully charged just before entering an urban zone.

When ILENA is combined with BMW’s “Efficient Dynamics,” it can save 5% to 10% in fuel consumption, says BMW. (But wait: Efficient Dynamics has been widely criticised for not really saying much at all—but let’s not be too critical, shall we?) So BMW promises less fuel but more power to the people. Others will say: more Big Brother. I’d prefer to remember what the immortal LJK Setright said when 15 years ago he observed the Germans were “obsessed with power and electronic gimmickry.”

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19 Comments on “BMW Developing Navigation Nanny That Learns...”

  • avatar

    Well, other companies make rear wheel drive cars. With better quality and lower prices. So BMW no longer matters. Hopefully Hyundai will avoid putting this in the Genesis Coupe.

  • avatar
    Rev Junkie

    So what, the “Ultimate Driving Machines” will become the “Ultimate Fun-Killing Nanny-machines”? I thought that was Toyota’s thing.

  • avatar

    I’d figure they would want to put better window lifts and door locks into the cars for durability. This seems like something GM would do.

  • avatar

    This sounds like the kind of government, not consumer, directed hype that companies in need of bailouts announce. Possible BMW’s finances are worse than we knew.

  • avatar


    by this:

    <<<Say, your everyday commute involves a quick blast from 0-50 to merge on the freeway? Using ILENA, your car will pro-actively subtract power from the aircon and select a later shifting point for the auto transmission.

    are you saying that this device is going to give your UDM the slows???! I mean what are they smoking at BMW? Celery and carrot sticks? Somebody needs to make those Bavarians snort some good Italian espresso. Sheesh!

    This reminds me of my best friend’s routine when we used to ride our bicycles from our cottage to Berkeley when we were students there. He’d come up behind me, grab my rack and start pulling on it, yelling, “Energy thief!”

    BMW: I’ll save my own gasoline if I feel like it.

  • avatar

    Open the pod doors HAL….HAL!

  • avatar

    Skynet decided our fate in a microsecond: extermination.

  • avatar

    Actually seems like a good idea; uses nav info to program the car to to be the most efficient. But has some serious potential for abuse. Like controlling speed.

  • avatar

    As far as I could see, there was no mention of the data being transmitted outside your vehicle. If we do end up with cars with substantial electric motors and batteries, it would only make sense if they are fully charged by the time you exit the freeway into an urban area.

    And if a transmitter is included, all these cameras and GPS receivers should make it possible to include radar, visual police and speed camera detectors, and automatically have such cretins’ presence be transmitted to other BMW’s near by.

  • avatar

    The best part is when you lend your BMW to your wife and she comes back wondering why it kept slowing down and lowering the passenger window as she drove through the red light district.

  • avatar

    The new 2012 BMW 3-series with iSkynet!

  • avatar

    What could possibly go wrong go wrong?

  • avatar

    Wow, what a bunch of reactionaries! Perhaps BMW will provide an “OFF” button???????

    Toyota have been investigating a similar system for the plug-in hybrids which includes topographical info in the mapping data.

    For example, the car doesn’t know you’re about to ascend a hill with a handy coastable descent on the other side. It would run the battery down a bit further on the way up, and charge more on the way down.

    Not sure where they get the 3D map data however. I don’t suppose they have to make it, but I’d be sure most GPS devices are 2D.

  • avatar
    Edward Niedermeyer

    don1967: hilarity!

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    PeteMoran, you do have a point about my and our criticism being (at heart) reactionary, or at least luddite and conservative. Since we at TTAC have a strict upper limit on how long a blog post can be, I’ll use the opportunity to be a little more precise in my criticism of BMW.

    You are right that Toyota employs similar ideas. But BMW is not Prius. I posit that BMW should appeal to enterpreneurial types — those who value individual freedom more than the common good. Prius drivers will often, in contrast, be treehuggers. So this technology fits Prius drivers well, but it is not good for the BMW brand.

    About simply turning the device off: yes, but it seems likely ILENA would be integrated into the navigation system. Given the choice to drive without nav help, I think most people would go with ILENA.

    To prevent being seen as a reactionary, I could have repeated the stance I have taken in previous, related discussions: new monitoring technology can possibly be OK if your country has strict data-protection laws. As a matter of fact, I would accept an accident black box installed in my car if I could reap the benefit of decreased insurance payments. I like to drive in a clean fashion and wouldn’t mind having court-acceptable evidence the next time some jerk hits me. Since Germany has strict data-protection laws, BMW may be right in developing the technology for the home market. Alas, the U.S. does not have very strict data protection laws, so I think it would be a mistake to offer ILENA there.

    (As an minor aside, my Nokia mobile phone has a GPS function which also tells me my altitude, so I expect an advanced BMW navigational computer would also).

  • avatar

    @ Martin Schwoerer

    I imagine BMW aren’t planning on live upload of the data?

    Anyway, wouldn’t trouble me, so long as there is an OFF function for the intelligence (if I don’t want it) and a RESET function for the data storage.

    I also phrased my GPS mutterings poorly. The GPS device itself is always 3D, but the map data may only be 2D (in fact I’m sure it is), so Toyota’s incline/decline idea has to wait for better in-car data.

  • avatar

    don1967 – you needed to include a “Don’t have cereal in your mouth while reading” warning on your post! Very very funny indeed!

  • avatar

    Hahaha, another laugh for don1967’s comment!

    But seriously folks; most drivers are “average” drivers. A typical bell curve would therefore hold that the great majority of drivers are “average and below”. On any given day, I see the “average” driver putting on makeup, eating at the wheel, chatting on the cell phone, absorbed in his/her cigarette, reading the paper, reading (and responding to!) email, and so forth.

    It’s obvious to me, we’re just simply too busy to be expected to do something so menial as DRIVE the car we’re riding in!

    Therefore, for our loved ones, and for our own safety and survival, we need to put “average” and “below average” drivers into the passenger seat, even if they are said loved ones. Or us (*).

    Therefore, I think this is a good first step to making our roads safer.

    (*) Or into the back seat for those red-light district rendezvous…

  • avatar

    My 1994 Honda Civic got 40 mpg with an ICE engine and no electronic frills whatsoever.

    Top that BMW.

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