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In-Car HMI UX Evaluation & Benchmarking: BMW X1

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Around the world, more OEMs are equipping their latest vehicles with an increasing number of technologies – from future-focused infotainment systems to an abundance of new software features and services. As these technologies continue to roll out, the level of innovation they provide will only continue to advance the landscape surrounding them – paving the way for the Software-Defined Vehicle. However, their success now and in the future ultimately lies in their ability to deliver a seamless, and satisfactory, user experience. For OEMs, developers, and suppliers, delivering this experience will not only ensure successful product launches, but also secure long-term customer loyalty with the vehicle and its digital services.

 

Recognizing how these HMI features can positively, or negatively, contribute to the in-vehicle user experience is our In-Car HMI UX Evaluation & Benchmarking report series. Representing one of our best-selling, longest running, reports, it provides a comprehensive, analytical, assessment of the latest HMI systems launched around the world. For 2024, our UX experts will review and benchmark the systems provided in nine vehicles to understand who is leading in the space, and who is falling behind.

 

In this Insight, we will be taking a deep dive into the first entry of the series for this year, which covers the BMW X1. In addition to sharing the new SUV’s IVI and UX highlights, we will also be outlining the strengths and weaknesses posed by some of its key systems and more deeply analyzing their implications on the end user experience.


A Closer Look at the BMW X1

For this report, our experts tested a 2024 model year BMW X1, the first model launched by the OEM that includes iDrive 9 – its latest vehicle operating system. The system leverages Android Open Source Project software provided by Google to enable a map-centric approach, while allowing more third-party apps to enter its in-vehicle app ecosystem. Compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is also offered.

 

At the center of the SUV’s infotainment offering is the BMW Curved Display – with a configurable 10.25-inch instrument cluster and a 10.7-inch central information display. While hosting iDrive 9’s apps and services, including BMW’s ConnectedDrive Services, the Curved Display also houses controls for core vehicle functions such as My Modes and the OEM’s Active Driving Assistant (which includes ADAS such as Active Blind Spot Detection, Lane Departure Warning, and more).

 

Key Takeaways

One of the key takeaways our experts found after testing the X1 was that some of its HMI elements had a steep learning curve, especially the steering wheel controls for the head-up display (HUD) and instrument cluster.

 

For example, when the HUD is switched off, the steering wheel controls on the right-hand side interact with the cluster – while these same controls interact with the HUD once it is activated. The dual use of these buttons has the potential to confuse users, therefore posing a weakness in the UX of the steering wheel controls. More broadly, this dual use could also result in users taking more time than expected to understand this implementation and become familiar with it. Our experts similarly found that the steering wheel’s scroll wheel was sometimes difficult to use, with an inconsistency between the left-side switch and ride-side scroll adding complexity, and potentially leading to misoperation. The controls for the X1’s media system were also highlighted as a weakness. Here, the user must refer to the menu on either the HUD or instrument cluster when tuning the in-vehicle radio to their ‘preset’ or ‘favorite’ stations to ensure they are making the right selection – increasing the user’s cognitive load while they drive.




 

Our UX team found that one of the SUV’s key HMI strengths was the ConnectedDrive Store, the reach of which can be extended through BMW Digital Premium (the OEM’s optional connected services package). Initially available to all users as a three-month trial after purchasing the vehicle, the package is offered as either a monthly or yearly subscription. Through it, users can access and download a range of third-party apps directly onto their vehicle spanning categories such as Music and Audio, Gaming, Travel and Local, and Entertainment. These apps can be found on the app screen and on other relevant menus – Spotify and the NPR app appear in the ‘media sources’ menu, for example.

 

One of the biggest strengths of the ConnectedDrive Store itself is the familiarity of its experience to the consumer electronics world – offering a similar experience of downloading and managing apps to that of similar app stores provided on many mobile devices. At the same time, the third-party apps offered on BMW’s app store provide users with relevant, useful, content that help extend the lifetime of the system as a whole as they continue to download apps that keep it up to date.


Analysis

A deeper dive into the experience provided by the BMW X1’s system unearthed two key findings around its various capabilities for customization and configuration, and the usability of its system architecture.



Here, our experts found that one of the system’s advantages was the level of personalization it offered to users, allowing them to customize many parameters to meet their own driving preferences. At the height of this is My Modes, which offers a series of curated, selectable, themes that change elements around the cabin such as its interior lighting and sound design. Furthermore, repeated actions are registered by the X1’s system and learned over time, allowing it to recognize these habits and make proactive recommendations that, themselves, are unique to different user profiles.

 

Our experts also found that the complexity of the X1’s information architecture posed a disadvantage to its user experience as a whole. This was partly caused by main menu buttons being located in different areas – with permanent buttons for the Media, Telephone, Navigation on the left-hand side of the central display that were displayed using words, and buttons built into the HVAC bar for the HVAC, Homepage and App screen that used icons. Our experts found that the disjointed appearance between these two sets of buttons was visually jarring and could cause difficulty for some users when navigating the system.


Next Steps

As shown through this article, the BMW X1 provides both an extensive range of HMI features and the chance to enhance these features even further through packages such as BMW Digital Premium. In reviewing the UX of its features, our experts found that the vehicle offered some interesting strengths as well as key areas for improvement. However, the systems detailed in this article – as well as the takeaways and analysis accompanying them – represent only a portion of the insights shared in the full report.

 

Spanning more than 170 pages, it provides even deeper insights into the user experience of the new SUV’s features across several key domains – including ADAS, infotainment, navigation, and voice recognition – while scoring its features and functions and benchmarking it against the vehicles reviewed across our 2023 HMI UX reports.

 

Want to learn more about the latest in-vehicle HMI solutions, their impacts on the end user experience, and which vehicle offers the best user experience? Then be sure to secure your copy of our In-Car HMI UX Evaluation & Benchmarking series!





 


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