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BMW to roll out restaurant-booking digital helper within months

The front end grill of a new BMW X4 M40i SUV is on display at the North American International Auto Show, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Detroit, Mich. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
The front end grill of a new BMW X4 M40i SUV is on display at the North American International Auto Show, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Detroit, Mich. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

(Bloomberg) -- BMW wants customers to keep their eyes on the dashboard instead of their smartphones.

The luxury-car maker is pushing back against tech competitors with a digital helper that lets drivers locate a nearby restaurant with free tables, book seats and find the best route there. The cloud-based BMW Connected service, which will also include applications such as home-heating remote control, will be available in the next few months, Dieter May, head of the manufacturer’s digital services and business models unit, told reporters Monday in Munich.

Digital features to retain customers

Carmakers are under pressure to develop digital features to retain customers as companies such as Apple Inc. and Google consider entering the automotive industry with connected vehicles. BMW AG and competitors Audi AG and Daimler AG jointly bought Nokia Oyj’s HERE navigation and mapping business last year. BMW Connected, which can be installed in cars equipped with ConnectedDrive dashboard electronics, was part of the technology the automaker unveiled earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show.

“We have the right assets to survive in this game,” said May, who joined Munich-based BMW from Finnish technology producer Nokia in 2014. “We don’t know how it’ll end. I think no one knew five years ago how the smartphone game would end.” BMW is in talks with third-party providers such as weather forecasters to supply more content, he said.

Mobile communications is opportunity for auto industry

Mobile communications present a new business opportunity for the auto industry, with revenue from data streams and connectivity components estimated at a 180 billion-euro ($196 billion) market by 2020, consultant McKinsey & Co. said last year.

May’s unit, with offices in Munich, Chicago and Shanghai, was created in 2015 and has a workforce of about 150 employees. They’re assigned to come up with new digital products within weeks, in contrast to car-development cycles that take several years.

 

Related: Cars said ripe for identity theft as shopping comes to dashboard

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