back to article BMW's ConnectedDrive falls over, bosses blame upgrade snafu

BMW's ConnectedDrive car-to-mobe interface has suffered a UK-wide outage that may also affect customers in mainland Europe. A Register reader tipped us off about the problem after he found himself unable to register for ConnectedDrive since around 19 July, getting confronted by an error message instead. In response to his …

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Devil

BMW i-Milkfloat...

has now replaced the Beetle as the ultimate driving bug :D

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all ancillary

So, no hope for the middle lanes then. On a side note, I find it amazing the number of people ready to fire up their fav blog to vehemently defend their perceived right to not let their wheels touch the left lane (that they insist is the "slow lane"; apparently it's forbidden to drive there above 50mph in their twisted world). It's a deadly shame to be seen on the "slow" lane. You must absolutely avoid it a all cost. Even if the road is otherwise completely empty you must stay on the center lane or be seen as "slow"; perhaps "they" will even think you're lacking in the manly appendage department.

And these people are not even all driving beemers!

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Anonymous Coward

"And these people are not even all driving beemers!"

The majority of middle laners that I see are in average hatchbacks and family cars (Fords, Vauxhalls, Seats etc). The BMWs are the ones coming up behind you at 100MPH+ flashing their lights as you are trying to get around the middle lane morons.

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They also refuse to use indicators, as the constant flashing of the bulbs reduces the life of the bulb and indicator unit.

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Paris Hilton

"average hatchbacks", odd I tend to mostly undertake 4X4, SUV's, taxi's (Excludes black cabs they are mostly in lane 1 doing 50) and people carriers.

Edit: Where I am traveling at the speed limit and using lane 1 because the outer lanes already have BMW's doing 100MPH, where there is nothing else in lane 1.

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Confession time

I drive in the middle lane sometimes. If it's very quiet it gives you two lots of cats-eyes to thud across while sleeping before you hit something. Other times the left lane is so deeply rutted by lorries that it's hard to keep a straight line.

Most of the time I stick to the fast lane as it feels safer, no idiots on the right and the speed differences are less than in the other two lanes.

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HMB

Re: Confession time

I really hope you're trolling there Natalie Gritpants.

I've always felt that using the motorway properly, keeping to the left and using all other lanes as overtaking lanes, genuinely makes for a more interesting drive. If I were to keep in one lane constantly and was not required to pay a lot of attention to other traffic I think I'd find motorway driving quite dull and tedious, as it happens there's always plenty to overtake and plenty of bad habbits, absent indicating and dick manoeuvres to bitch about. I don't have dull motorway journeys.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Confession time

bad habbits

Is that what hobbits have?

As for lane discipline, it's not called discipline for nothing. If everyone would timely return to the innermost lane, traffic would flow, but the fear not being "allowed in" later makes people hang in the outermost lane the moment someone starts to overtake a HGV about 1 mile down the road.

Personally, I think there is something to be said for the system which allows passing on either side (in use in Thailand, for instance). It does away with the problem of one idiot in the outer lane causing serious tailbacks, but it does demand a separate approach for HGVs as they could really make a mess that way (unintentionally, their speed is regulated so it's not like they have much of a choice).

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Re: Confession time

Unless you are overtaking another vehicle, you should stay in the left-most lane - unless the lanes are leading to different roads, denoted by a solid line. Never undertake - unless, again, you lane is leading to another road. This isn't even a topic for discussion - its always been in the highway code, and as of this year failure to comply is subject to an on-the-spot fine.

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Re: Confession time

The highway code may recommend that you do not undertake, but it is not in fact illegal, and so unless it can be construed as dangerous will not result in a fine. The driver most at fault is in any case the driver of the vehicle being undertaken - in order for it to be *possible* to be undertaken, you have to be driving in the wrong lane (think about it).

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Re: Confession time

The Highway Code stated when I took my test that you shouldn't undertake unless there's a speed differential between lanes - otherwise - for example - if lane 1 was free flowing but for some reason lane 2 suddenly snarled up - by your reasoning lane 1 should also come to a halt - even if there was no reason to - because they'd be undertaking...

My copy of the highway code had a little set of images which had two cars travelling in the middle lane - the rear of the two cars passing on the inside (lane 1) of the front car in lane 2, before itself return to lane 2 - that was classed as undertaking.

Travelling at 70mph in lane 1 and driving past a car that's doing 60mph in lane 2, is not undertaking as far as the Highway code (when I took my test) was concerned.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Cynic_999

To say that the car being undertaken is always at fault is a little foolish. I accept that it is often the case but not always.

Typically in the UK I see a 2 mile queue of drivers in lane 2 on a dual carriageway because there's a lorry on the horizon. If you're one of the people who gets into lane 2 then you can't go faster because you're in a long queue. Now obviously it would be better if people stayed in until they got near the lorry but I'm not sure I'd want to say that those in the queue in lane 2 are all at fault. Having spent some time living abroad it does seem to be more of a problem in the UK and people in lane 2 near the lorry are more likely to block anyone in lane 1 from overtaking the lorry. Perhaps it's the British obsession with queuing :-)

Another case I've seen is when someone is in a queue of three of four cars passing a couple of lorries. I've seen someone at the back of the queue dive into lane 1 between the lorries and swerve back in front of a car in lane 2, just to gain 10 yards and just because one of the other cars is keeping a safe distance to the car in front. Again not the fault of the car being undertaken.

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Joke

the constant flashing of the bulbs reduces the life of the bulb and indicator unit.

Strangely a lot of them don't seem able to maintain good speed around corners as they often come up behind me (ooh er missus) on single lane roads then drop behind when it gets twisty. Perhaps they are trying to prolong the life of their tyres as well.

If wear and tear is to be minimised it would help if they had some kind of obstruction early warning system. Like "There's a roundabout ahead. You might as well ease off now rather than slamming on the breaks at the last minute".

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Anonymous Coward

irony alert (but some truth)

1) Driving in the right lane shows you are:

i) both dominant and decisive - a leader of men.

ii) You probably drive a BMW, although any German car (except VW Beetle - see 2/3 below) is acceptable

2) Driving in the middle lane is for:

i) girls who will be hunched over their steering wheel and oblivious to the movements of other cars

ii) Lorry drivers who like to drive at the side of another lorry and chat to each other for several minutes before returning to follow the left-lane driving lorry after a failed over-taking maneuver (these people should be banned from driving for life)

iii) vegetarians who will not want to impose their lane usage on other drivers (vegans will be walking/cycling to their job which will be local and not involve a car journey - certainly not a motorway)

3) To be seen driving in the left lane is a sign of lack of virility and weakness. Left hand lane drivers all have very small winkies. Lorries/Busses/Coaches should be limited only to Left Hand lane driving only and excluded from Middle Lane (see 2)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Confession time

"I drive in the middle lane sometimes. If it's very quiet it gives you two lots of cats-eyes to thud across while sleeping before you hit something. Other times the left lane is so deeply rutted by lorries that it's hard to keep a straight line.

Most of the time I stick to the fast lane as it feels safer, no idiots on the right and the speed differences are less than in the other two lanes."

This is irony, right? You can't really be as incompetent a driver as your post suggests?

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Facepalm

fail

" complete re-programming at the server end, and starting again from scratch ".

It seems still in 2014, people are performing a major upgrade on live systems used by customers, with no prior backup of any kind ...

I like the "complete re-programming" term most, either the lad was not totally fluent with IT or maybe ... they lost the apps binaries AND source as well ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: fail

the complete reload was most likely a restore. And these days, a restore is the VERY last thing you think of doing. Usually it's better to battle on rather than several hours of data.

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Re: fail

I like the "complete re-programming" term most, either the lad was not totally fluent with IT or maybe ... they lost the apps binaries AND source as well ?

why not both?

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Facepalm

Re: AC Re: fail

"the complete reload was most likely a restore....." Most probably.

"....And these days, a restore is the VERY last thing you think of doing....." Er, no. Any good project manager will have a contingency plan A and B and usually C, C being 'pull the plug and put the old and known good system back in place'. Going to any of the contingencies will happen when certain states are arrived at, and will be agreed with management in advance (to cover the PM's backside). Usually this is based on a relative cost to the business, as in it may reach a stage where going with C is actually a quicker way to return service to the customers whilst you work on a longer term solution in the background. Seeing as this seems to be a database(s) of relatively static data it is highly unlikely a roll-back or restore would lose any data.

".....Usually it's better to battle on rather than (lose?) several hours of data." No. The article mentions a migration which makes me suspect data corruption in the new database(s). In that case, going back to the old database(s) is a quicker and more certain way of returning service to the customers than trying to find and correct corruption in the new database(s). Remember, the priority for BMW is probably returning service and then fixing the upgrade, rather than having to suffer bad press for the possibly unknown length of time it could take to fix the upgrade alone. Techies like to focus on solving problems and fix stuff, business people like to get back to making money ASAP - it's usually the business people that get the final say.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: fail

I think this is probably a statement from a BMW manager or Marketing exec who doesn't really understand IT. Probably they don't understand the difference between reload or apps, restore of data or reprogramming of code. I have a neighbour who continually infests his computer with viruses and then insists he has reprogrammed Windows to recover his machine.

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Anonymous Coward

It's a gimmick anyway. Seriously, it's only use is for the fun of seeing peoples faces when I make my car do a retarded Herbie impression.

Electric car range is semi useful I suppose, but most users of the app do not have an i3 or i8.

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Devil

..sound the horn...

Isn't that illegal? It's certainly against the Highway Code and bloody annoying if you're next to a driver who hits his horn to attract the attention of a mate half a mile away and behind a windshield.

I try to dissuade people from doing that again. I know you drive a BMW, but whereabouts do you live again?

<car icon, of course--->

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Re: ..sound the horn...

The legitimate purpose of sounding the horn is to notify people of your presence. ISTM that is exactly what a person who has lost their car is making the car do ...

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"It's a gimmick anyway. Seriously, it's only use is for the fun of seeing peoples faces when I make my car do a retarded Herbie impression."

Actually, it's a gimmick NOW, but if desirable, they're gonna put more services on it, incrementally.

Of course, without checking what if the service is down, each step they go through ...

And one day, someone might get killed because of this.

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How hard can it be?

It would be interesting to know how the system is implemented, given that it's only pairs of mobile devices swapping data. You could even design it to be "server-free" by using SMS messages, which I believe will often arrive at their destination.

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Boffin

Re: Steve Graham Re: How hard can it be?

I assume BMW have included an extra element of authorization to stop miscreants pretending to be car owners and doing silly things to cars. The fact it is taking much longer for tasks to happen (such as the mentioned example of flashing the headlights taking several hours to be actioned) implies the fault is in the authorization of the action.

The ironic bit is, as soon as news of such a fault appears in public, the load on the servers goes up as the car owners experiment to see what affect the problem may have. I suspect that, if the system behind the authorization is corrupted/broken, then the BMW staff are probably manually dealing with a backlog of requests which is now growing as more users go "Hmmmm, I don't usually use the service, but best test it to see what affect it may have."

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Re: Steve Graham How hard can it be?

"I assume BMW have included an extra element of authorization"

Yes, but that could still be done without having to transit 3rd party servers. From what I've read about both this and many other so-called "apps", they are just front ends to data slurping and monitoring systems in "da cloud thing"

Since the "app" device and the remote device both have an internet connection, there's no good reason why the essential functions, if not the majority of functions, should not be device to device connections. Not only is it one less point of failure, but it's removing a failure point that can affect your entire customer base. If the company really must slurp the data, why not just upload it after the fact instead of monitoring everything in real time.

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Bonnetnote

Love it.

That is all

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bonnetnote

'Bootnote', or for the benefit of our cousins on the West of the Atlantic, 'Trunknote'- though it can be also used describing flatulence whilst wearing Speedos.

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Anonymous Coward

No thanks - no remote control

Call me paranoid, but am I really the only one who has misgivings about car functions being able to be remote controlled?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No thanks - no remote control

No not at all...I worry about it too!

The moment I drive my car through the gates of the dealer it "checks in" with them, hands over all the details about my car (when services are due, when the MOT is needed, how worn my break pads are etc) they can then use this same system to change the details on my car when they are done with it. The intention is to make life easier, but I really worry that the same system that resets my tyre pressure monitor remotely can also be used to change the parameters of my fuel management, and with an electronic throttle and a (semi) auto gearbox it wouldn't take stephen hawking to set my car to rev to the max, disable the speed limiter and have me hurtling along the M25 at 200+Mph. The electronic "start" button is also linked to the same systems, so it could be disabled from turning the engine off leaving me with no choice but to hang on and pray for an empty road and a hole in the fuel tank...

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Re: No thanks - no remote control

I also do not want, but more for the fact we are all becoming like the humans on the ship in Wall-E.

If you need to check your car is locked just get off your fat arse, go to the window and press your lock button.

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Re: No thanks - no remote control

If you put your foot on the pedal to the left of the accelerator the car will stop no matter what the engine is programmed to do -- no car has enough engine power to overcome the brakes, which is why most of the "unintended acceleration" and "runway car" stories are cases of "wrong pedal syndrome".

Or do you drive a BMW (hence 200+MPH) and only know what the right-hand pedal is for?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No thanks - no remote control

"no car has enough engine power to overcome the brakes"

You can do a burnout by stomping on the brakes and hitting the accelerator, guess what, the car doesn't move but the rear wheels (or front depending on the car) start to spin and create smoke. Even on cars with less than 200Bhp. Watch pretty much any US based car show and you'll see them doing this.

That is from a standing start where your brakes are most likely to be able to contain the power. When you are already travelling at 70Mph it requires much more effort, even without ABS it is very hard to lock the brakes on a car travelling at that speed (i wont say impossible but pretty much) even if you stomp on them with all your weight they will only start to lock at lower speeds.

"most of the "unintended acceleration" and "runway car" stories are cases of "wrong pedal syndrome"."

Incorrect, as explained above, and also, the average cars pads and discs are not up to prolonged hard breaking. Test it yourself, do an emergency stop from 70 to 0 (on a quite dual carriage way or private track) then do another straight afterwards in a standard car (anything not a 'performance' car) and then tell me your brakes don't feel like they have started to be less efficient (they will feel like they are not working). This is because they have heated up to too high a temperature and have started to "fade" now this test is you braking hard for around 20 seconds total, now think what would happen when your engine is at full tilt and the brakes are struggling to slow you down, after around 15 or 20 seconds they will fade, keep your foot on the brake peddle and they will either catch fire or disintegrate, leaving you with nothing at all to stop you.

You really need to read up on these things before you start to throw invalid arguments around, especially when you are commenting against people with decades of experience with arsing around in cars.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No thanks - no remote control

Wall-E was a sort of dumbed down 3D future.

Watch Idiocracy for a more adult and humorous version. Another Mike Judge classic.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No thanks - no remote control

>Call me paranoid, but am I really the only one who has misgivings about car functions being able to be remote controlled?

Many cars these days are built on the CANbus system of sensors, actuators and brains. There are two frequencies used, one for drivetrain functions, and a lower frequency for HVAC controls, windows, entertainment system etc. It is a packet-based system with levels of priority in the packet headers. It is a twisted pair cabling system, and in the event of a break in one cable the drivetrain will be disabled, but the less critical systems will still function.

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Re: No thanks - no remote control

A car performing doughnuts or wheel spins surely has smoke coming from the tyres, not the brakes. While it is indeed possible to burn out the brakes, that will happen only if you apply *gentle* braking for a long period of time while continuing to apply power. The brakes of any modern car should be sufficient to slow the car to a standstill no matter what power the engine is delivering, so long as the brakes are applied reasonably firmly and continuously. There is also the possibility of putting the car into neutral, which AFAIAA can be done via a mechanically linked control in all cars (or at least via a control that cannot be overridden by the electronics).

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Re: No thanks - no remote control

Brake pads. Please. Every time a (usually American for this bit of illiteracy) writes "breaks" for "brakes", Baby Jesus sheds a tear.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No thanks - no remote control

If you put your foot on the pedal to the left of the accelerator the car will stop no matter what the engine is programmed to do -- no car has enough engine power to overcome the brakes, which is why most of the "unintended acceleration" and "runway car" stories are cases of "wrong pedal syndrome".

Also

The brakes of any modern car should be sufficient to slow the car to a standstill no matter what power the engine is delivering, so long as the brakes are applied reasonably firmly and continuously

BZZZT! Wrong! It is actually a function of ABS to kill your brakes for a moment so the mechanism already exists, and it is under electronic control. Worse, it has already been proven to be eminently hackable (sorry for the Forbes link, but do some digging and you find the original research). This is not theory - this has been demonstrated, and with simple straight-off-the-production-line cars.

There is also the possibility of putting the car into neutral, which AFAIAA can be done via a mechanically linked control in all cars (or at least via a control that cannot be overridden by the electronics).

You are aware that your average automatic is controlled by wire, not mechanically? All of them have electronics involved in the decision process, so I can see this mechanism being subverted too. Give it time. Add to the fact that we don't even have a kill switch anymore (the ignition key is now an - again electronic- start/stop button) and it's almost as if someone has been on a deliberate campaign to remove all car fallback mechanisms (and forget about the handbrake, that tends not to have enough power to slow down the car).

QED: no remote control for me, thanks, also because I don't like being tracked. Until such time as I take up crime for a living I am entitled to me privacy, and anyone who wants to break that will have a serious fight on their hands.

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Meh

Re: No thanks - no remote control

If you need to check your car is locked just get off your fat arse, go to the window and press your lock button.

My car is left at a train station and during the day is over 50 miles from where I work. I believe that the curvature of the Earth prevents me from seeing it. Well, that and the roof of the multi-storey car park. Plus I'm still using the original batteries in my key fob so I suspect the signal won't get that far.

But I don't think I've ever wondered about the car doors so not a problem. House doors though..yeah. I ruined one Christmas holiday because I thought I'd left the front door open and flapping in the breeze. I hadn't - it was closed and locked. But that haunted me all week.

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If only we had snapshots and virtualisation.

Oh wait, we do.

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Linux

we are doomed

Actually that pedal to the left is merely an interface to an electronic device - i.e. 'brake by wire' - for more and more vehicles on the roads. As are the shifter and shifter paddles, as have been most dashboard controls for years. I tremble for a moment every time I climb into my Bimmer, before I race off to go weaving between lanes, sometimes using my turn-signal-by-wire......

But no Connected app for me yet...will probably hold out till just before the fall of Westwen Civilization.

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Re: we are doomed

Actually that pedal to the left is merely an interface to an electronic device - i.e. 'brake by wire' - for more and more vehicles on the roads. As are the shifter and shifter paddles, as have been most dashboard controls for years. I tremble for a moment every time I climb into my Bimmer, before I race off to go weaving between lanes, sometimes using my turn-signal-by-wire.....

For accelerator, that could be the case. For power steering, yes has been done. For brakes, I doubt it. Brakes need to be as failsafe as possible so they're usually hydraulic. Even if the servo assist fails they still work even though they would require significantly more force to operate.

The only place I've seen electric brakes is in trailers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: we are doomed

Brakes need to be as failsafe as possible so they're usually hydraulic. Even if the servo assist fails they still work even though they would require significantly more force to operate.

However, with a running engine you also have the power for ABS online, and how does that work? By cancelling your brake power for a moment - the mechanism used by researchers to simply kill your ability to use your brakes at all. Remotely. On a stock standard, normal car.

Let's just say that that is for me a moderately sufficient development to worry about.

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Re: we are doomed

"Actually that pedal to the left is merely an interface to an electronic device - i.e. 'brake by wire' - for more and more vehicles on the roads. As are the shifter and shifter paddles, as have been most dashboard controls for years."

Not in my cars. All 3 pedals (yes, if you know how to drive, there are 3 of them) are mechanically connected to either a cable (clutch and accelerator) or pump (brake). Steering is mechanical as well.

There is no way I'm buying a car where any of those is electrical because I see the risks but not the gains. A mechanical or hydraulic device is always more reliable than an electrical system.

And yes, my most recent car is from 14 years ago, but still doing great.

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Anonymous Coward

Making cars reliant on a web service for core functions, bad idea.

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Core functions?? My car's core function is to travel from A-B safely. Its GPS, remote locking system, alarm and horn etc are secondary functions at best.

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AOD

Move over Miss Daisy

The app in the UK doesn't allow you to sound the horn as that would contravene the Highway Code.

Neither does it allow you check if the vehicle is locked. It allows you to remotely lock or unlock (that much is true), but it won't show if the vehicle is locked/unlocked before you send that request.

The only truly useful part of the app (from my perspective) is the ability to search for a destination on my phone and then squirt that to the in car nav system.

With regard to bad driving on UK motorways, yes I see plenty of middle lane hoggers and folks treating the indicators (turn signals for our US audience) as some sort of optional extras.

Personally, I keep to the left and pull out as required (with signalling so other drivers don't have to rely on telepathy). Additionally, if I'm passing a vehicle in the left lane (or about to) and I can see based on their relative speed that they will need to pull out to pass the vehicle in front of them, I will move to the outer lane to give them space to make that manoeuvre. It's part consideration for others but it's also a defensive move as well, part of what my instructor referred to as "reading the road". How many times have you seen somebody get way too close to the vehicle in front and then suddenly pull out to overtake with no warning (and probably no check of what's next to them)?

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RE: worry that it can disable limiters, change fuel parameters, etc... If you think of it like a remote control, there is only a limited set of buttons to press. it works via SMS (from BMWs server to the car) and it will only perform certain actions it knows how to perform.

Mine lets me remotely lock/unlock it - which i think is kind of useless and I've never tried to do (why would I?)

The feature I actually use is sending locations to the car, so when I get in, sat nav is ready to go... It would be far better if I could do that from google maps, or something, instead of having to login to BMW ConnectedDrive and using their cumbersome interface, but still quicker than using the spinny wheel thing to enter postcodes!

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AOD

clocKwize, salvation is at hand

You can send destinations direct from Google Maps, an example of how to do do can be seen in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJpXDVyZ9s4

Google may have recently restricted this so you have to be signed in with a Google id/account, but the facility is there.

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