Klaus Draeger began his career as a scientific staff member at the university before earning his PhD. In 1985, he joined BMW as a trainee in the manufacturing area. He passed through various posts at the German premium carmaker, including manager of purchasing for special models. In the second half of the 1990s, Draeger was responsible for the technical purchasing area for BMW South Africa. Between 2002 and 2004, the mechanical engineer led body development. Since 2006, Draeger has been a member of the BMW management board, with responsibility for development. He spoke with automotiveIT’s Hilmar Dunker about the intertwining of the Internet and the automobile, the emerging electric mobility, and new transportation concepts. The interview was conducted in late 2009.
Mr. Draeger, the IT issue is very important to BMW. You are building a center especially for information technology that is due to open in mid-2009. Could you just take us on a kind of virtual tour?
The BMW Group's IT community operates 24 hours a day globally, anywhere - at any time. Two-thirds of the employees have jobs at our Munich location, and one-third are employed at locations spread out internationally. These locations are factories, branch offices, retail organizations and financial services facilities as well as computing centers in the various regions. Embedded in this international framework, the new information technology center fulfills its two key functions. It serves as the home of the Munich IT Group and as the IT Group's platform for international communication and cooperation.
The new center is in close proximity to the FIZ. What synergies can be exploited there?
Currently spread across seven facilities, Munich IT functions are being bundled in the IT center, a centrally-located facility near the FIZ (BMW's cenral research and innovation center. Eds). Then we can experience and utilize all its advantages for the IT Group and the entire BMW Group. It continues to be an important goal to have the ability to act more quickly and more effectively, with short channels and by working "next-door" to one another.
...therefore more efficient work flows?
As a result, the work flows within IT are accelerated and direct contacts are being promoted, which simplifies project work. The improved work environment for individual and team work, along with the advanced technical infrastructure, also increases the efficiency of the work.
IT and the automobile are increasingly growing together. The ConnectedDrive theme is considered a key issue for BMW. You are equipping your navigation with "artificial intelligence" and instilling the ability to learn into it. What future capabilities are behind this?
BMW ConnectedDrive denotes a variety of mobility services, unique across the globe, from the fields of traffic information, emergency calling, information and office services, trip and leisure planning as well as the Internet. All these functions are systematically oriented to three goals: boosting individual comfort, optimizing the safety of all occupants, and satisfying the most advanced demands for infotainment in the automobile.
Learning Navigation, now being tested as a prototype in the BMW Group research and technology unit, is part of that. How does the system work?
Without someone entering a destination, the navigation can predict where the trip is headed and what route has been selected. This self-learning route assessment can condition the car for future events. The navigation system has to learn, at first, to make this prediction. A secure profile, created for each driver, stores trip information. Destinations, short cuts, and secret routes, along with the time of day and the seats occupied, can provide the information. With all this data, the trip can be considerably more comfortable. Timely traffic jam warnings, the rapid selection of the most probable destination - not the last or the stored destination - and the comparison with a personal calendar in a smart phone are only the first of many possible ideas.
And reliability? Isn't "prediction" associated with a certain imprecision?
Reliability is the decisive, key qualification for our technical innovations, since they are only relevant to the customer if they are reliable. In the process, we offer an orientation that the customer can follow, but does not need to. With us, the driver remains sovereign. At the same time, we help him cope with critical situations, increase efficiency and enjoy driving.
Let's interpose a "philosophical" question on the theme of ConnectedDrive? Is the Internet conquering the automobile or the automobile the Internet?
The Internet networks the automobile with its surroundings and integrates it into the living environment of our customers. It is irreplaceable in this regard. But in any case, it can simulate the feeling of driving -- or in our case the joy of driving -- but it can never replace it. So it is not a question of a conquest for the automobile or the Internet, but rather fraternization.
What is the potential for savings in the medium term if fuel-saving technologies such as EfficientDynamics or new drive concepts such as hybrid systems are networked with "intelligent" navigation systems?
The next step for "Learning Navigation" is the networking, inside the vehicle, of the navigation system with the other systems. The information from intelligent navigation is combined with BMW's energy-saving measures for this. Breaking energy recapture today works only during coasting, for example, by actually driving downhill. With predictive navigation, you could possibly save fuel if the slope still is a good way ahead. It has the capacity to forecast that the battery would be full again at that point. With this anticipatory energy management, fuel consumption can be reduced by 5 to 10 percent. That means more comfort, more dynamism, and all that with less fuel consumption - that's EfficientDynamics.
The next step would be for cars to communicate with one another in a targeted way. Real occurrences on the road would be captured even better and conveyed from car to car - in real time. When will this technology be ready for use on a broad scale?
The BMW Group considers the work on these systems to be a long-term issue with great potential. But its realization requires the cooperation of a number of automakers as well as infrastructure operators, where necessary, to achieve the necessary penetration rates for the outfitted vehicles on the road.
How do things stand in this regard?
The Car2Car Communication Consortium, where more than 30 companies and research facilities are collaborating, is playing a decisive role on this. At the same time, we welcome the active participation of all automakers, as vehicle-to-vehicle communication can only be realized jointly, with uniform interfaces and technology. Investigations like the "SIM-TD" (Secure Intelligent Mobility - Test Field Germany) are taking place with BMW's participation, in particular to further demonstrate the penetration rates that are needed. Meanwhile, Hesse, along with the Rhine Main region and Frankfurt, is considered the test region for Car2Car as well as Car-2Infrastructue communication. It's still a long way to production readiness. We are evaluating new systems based on "value added for the customer" systematically and only introduce them if they have achieved the necessary technological maturity and live up to the expectations of our customers in their scope and quality.
The high-tech association Bitkom is calling for the rapid expansion of traffic management systems. But the path to advanced traffic management still seems bumpy. Is a pooling of forces across Europe missing? You get the impression that there are many players and even more approaches to solutions.
Please understand that the BMW Group does not comment on Bitkom activities.
Then we'll ask the question in another way. Ideally, all transportation participants - meaning individual transport, public means of transportation as well as infrastructure - should be linked together intelligently. What's BMW's vision on this - is the car key with credit card a start, so to speak?
The car key with a payment function is an interesting approach, to store tickets for local public transit, for example, to enable a smooth transition between the various traffic carriers. We expect the need for mobility to continue to increase. Thus, the BMW Group has already been active in the area of traffic management for more than 20 years. We naturally take all the transportation participants into consideration and don't restrict ourselves to the automobile. We see transportation and mobility as the basis for social and economic development. At the same time, our goal is the development of transportation that is sustainable for cities and the environment, not a restriction of mobility.
Will the advanced traffic management systems and powertrain technologies of tomorrow form a symbiosis - and what will it look like? T-Systems is already planning intelligent billing concepts. A successful, broader market introduction assumes consideration of the use of electric vehicles as part of an overall concept for future mobility. There are still many open questions that need to be cleared up on that. What are they in your opinion?
The limited range of vehicles running purely on electric power from batteries, coupled with a time-consuming "filling process," could especially stand out as a difficult obstacle to overcome. So suitable concepts to overcome them must be developed and tested at an early stage, before their introduction. They must lead to a significant increase in efficiency and, as a result, clearly higher usability, and thus acceptance. The user must be able to trust that he can access information quickly and in an uncomplicated way. That could be information on the closest electric charging station as well as alternatives for continued travel and the subsequent return. At the same time, our "Learning Navigation" takes additional travel destinations, deadlines and the preferences of the electric vehicle's driver into consideration. The costs for these building blocks of mobility should remain calculable and billable as a package.
Mr. Draeger, are we on the threshold of a completely new mobility that is no longer based on horsepower and engine displacement - sort of a new definition of the joy of driving, so to speak?
At BMW, mobility has never been a question of horsepower and engine displacement and won't ever be. It is rather a matter of constantly re-evaluating the various influencing variables that determine mobility as well as the joy of driving typical to BMW and orienting our development work to them. Then, at the end of this process, there are vehicles that are future-oriented and make possible the joy of driving for our customers again and again.
Interview by Hilmar Dunker