The future for cars is clearly digital; ones which go on their own and are connected to the internet. But how secure is the data? DW spoke with Dieter May, the head of digital at car manufacturer BMW.
Mr May, electric and self-autonomous driving is the biggest topic when it comes to the future of the car industry. Above all, when it comes to autonomous driving, that is connectivity, but also networking of cars and digitalization are the key factors. BMW is strongly committed to being at the forefront of this. Do you see yourself as industry pioneers? How would you classify yourself?
In terms of digitalization, BMW has been in a very good position for a number of years. We already have a fleet of 8500 cars, which are connected and on the road. Now the next stage has been launched to bring personalized experiences to the car, so that the driver can experience in the digital life not only outside, but inside too.
How can I imagine that?
We have our "Connected Drive Services" offer. You get the current vehicle information as well as traffic information through their navigation system. And with our new platform called "BMW-Connected", we now have an opportunity to personalize their personal customer profile for the car. That is, of course, if you switch from one BMW to the next, they will take their personal profile and their new BMW will adapt to it.
In the case of electric cars, German car-makers have often been accused of lagging behind the competition. Where are the German car-makers, where is BMW?
I believe all competitors have made great efforts here, especially with regard to the new players who want to penetrate this market. They are classic Internet companies like Google, Apple and so on. By managing the driving experience, we have direct access to all sensors, camera systems etc, we can ultimately make the driving experience digital.
"Can you hack a networked car and take control? The industry is looking to ensure acceptable safety levels are achieved"
You mentioned Google and Apple, who are making strides not only in electric cars but self-driving cars too. Do you see these companies as a cooperation partner, a competitor, or as inspiration?
I would call it "co-opetition”! There are certainly areas where we co-operate. For example, to bring Apple experiences into the car via Apple CarPlay. But overall, we are competitors. As far as I know, the latest announcement from Apple and Google was that neither will continue to manufacture vehicles but focus solely on software and technology, particularly on "artificial intelligence". I believe there is significant competition in this area, with the race on to decide who will ultimately create the relevant technology. BMW has a clear strategy to establish a so-called "generic platform” in partnership with Intel and Mobileye, which will eventually compete with other manufacturers.
When it comes to networked cars, the topic of "big data" plays a crucial role. There are huge amounts of data to be gathered to account for positioning to the route, which is already happening today via smartphones. But how do you ensure that the data is secure and stays private?
Here you have to look at two topics. One is the protection of personal data and vehicle data. And secondly, how do I make sure that the car cannot be hacked? We have a very clear position on data, which is also reflected in our new product "CarData". The user has control over it and can determine what data he wants and, in the end, ultimately decides on every aspect of their digital experience. If I want a better experience, then I release more data. If I do not want that, I can control it and simply turn it off. So in this regard we are very transparent. Transparency and control is enormously important here.
Then on data protection: Can you hack a networked car and take control? The industry as a whole is looking to ensure acceptable safety levels are achieved from the outset. The risk of hacking affects our industry like any other, but in our industry the life of a person may depend on it. In this respect we have invested heavily and are working hard to be able to fix any potential data leak as quickly as possible. Software will never be 100 percent secure, but we must strive for perfection.
Dr. Dieter May is Head of Digital Services and Business Models at BMW. He arrived at BMW from Nokia in 2014.