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Connecting Cars and the 2016 BMW 7 Series - The Lohdown

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 6/11/2015 Edward Loh

On a Wednesday morning in late spring, BMW invited me to a swanky mansion in Beverly Hills to preview its new flagship sedan.

Technology has become the new platinum standard in luxury cars, supplanting supple leathers and sapele wood trim, and the new 2016 BMW 7 Series certainly doesn't disappoint. The 750i on display had more than one screen per passenger, including 10-inch monitors behind each front headrest and the latest Samsung Galaxy tablet in the rear center armrest to control nearly all of the comfort, convenience, and infotainment features. There is even a mini touchscreen in the new smart key.

The luxury saloon is now one giant roving Wi-Fi hot spot capable of supplying high speed wireless Internet connectivity not only to occupants' tablets and laptops but also to the vehicle's infotainment system.

The immediate future of automotive technology was on display that Wednesday morning in Beverly Hills, but the next morning in San Francisco, I hear a very different vision of the future.

"Whatever you saw yesterday will be irrelevant two years from now as far as technology goes," says Nakul Duggal, vice president, Automotive Product Management at Qualcomm, the pioneering semiconductor manufacturer. In addition to such advanced technologies as wireless charging systems for electric vehicles and connected car/car-to-car communications protocols, the San Diego-based company produces nearly all of the latest 4G LTE modems that make in-car connectivity possible. Qualcomm invited me up to see the breadth of all its future wares, not just automotive, at a conference aptly named the "Internet of Everything." During our chat, Duggal painted a fascinating future of a digitally connected ecosystem, in which cars are not lagging behind, but keeping pace with the latest smartphone advances.

2016 BMW 750Li xDrive© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 BMW 750Li xDrive 2016 BMW 7 Series Connecteddrive Gesture Control© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 BMW 7 Series Connecteddrive Gesture Control "If you think about it, the display inside the car, the kind of resolution that you're seeing now … after a point it doesn't matter whether you keep putting in more technology," Duggal says. "Your eye won't be able to decipher the improvement. Audio is the same way. If you make those static, and bolt those down, and then say, now I'm going to bring technology in, the change is much faster. Use the same audio and display peripherals, but change the technology much faster, such that every time you bring a new phone in, it is keeping pace. That is the signature disruption."

We feel like two years from now, this entire space is going to look very different,” says Nakul Duggal, Qualcomm’s SVP of automotive production.

For Duggal, the ubiquity and rapid evolution of the smartphone make it the high tech pacesetter in an ecosystem that seamlessly connects everything in your smart home (from your smart refrigerator to LED lightbulbs) to your wearables (health monitoring watch and clothing) to yes, your car: "I can't imagine that the car will be relevant for you as a connected device if it will not coexist on the same larger platform as your phone."

2016 BMW 750Li xDrive© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 BMW 750Li xDrive The difficult question is how carmakers can accommodate the seemingly endless array of technologies that continue to pop up from all directions. Duggal understands that it's quite a scary thing for carmakers to contend with: "It's not their business," he says. But it will have to be, because some very powerful outsiders are working with the auto industry to set the connected car agenda.

Connecting Cars and the 2016 BMW 7 Series - The Lohdown

One is the Open Automotive Alliance, a working group founded in 2014 by Audi, GM, Google, Honda, Hyundai, and Nvidia that has grown to include 44 car and technology brands. OAA's aim: to bring Google's Android ecosystem to the automobile starting with the 2015 Sonata.

"We feel like two years from now, this entire space is going to look very different," says Duggal. "Once the automotive industry realizes that embracing an ecosystem that keeps their products and their customers much more current, they'll have happier customers. They'll have much more interesting experiences to offer."

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