BMW's ConnectedDrive falls over, bosses blame upgrade snafu

Traffic flows up 20% as motorway middle lanes miraculously unclog

BMW Left-turn Assistant

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 queries, the BMW i3 electric car owner was told by email that he was far from alone in experiencing problems.

I am sorry that you have been experiencing difficulties with the ConnectedDrive application process. BMW (UK) Ltd are aware that there is currently a major outage issue and they are doing everything they can to resolve this matter.

BMW's ConnectedDrive app allows a motorist to pair a smartphone with in-car systems and carry out various functions remotely. These are all ancillary functions* so the outage, although extensive, is only going to inconvenience drivers rather than doing anything worse. Nevertheless, the problem is still frustrating for those affected by it.

A BMW customer service rep provided our source with more information about the problem in a follow-up phone conversation.

"... major European outage of ConnectedDrive escalated to BMW UK and BMW AG Germany, and the board. IT partners are working on the issue but they have informed us the problem requires complete re-programming at the server end, and starting again from scratch. No idea how long this will all take ..."

A more senior ConnectedDrive exec later told our man at the wheel, who wishes to remain anonymous, that the snafu was caused by an upgrade that had gone wrong.

“BMW UK, which had been using the same ConnectedDrive system for the last seven years, is currently updating its systems. BMW in Germany is migrating all the data from the old system to the new one, which, unfortunately has had an effect on the application part of our website. BMW UK hasn't yet been told when services are likely to be resolved.”

Ken Munro, a partner at Pen Test Partners, who recently uncovered security issues in systems that pair the latest generation of BMWs with owners' mobiles, was able to confirm that others are experiencing problems with ConnectedDrive

"I’ve spoken to a few colleagues who use ConnectedDrive," Munro told El Reg. "None of them can get it to work well – one took five minutes just to flash the lights. That is usually instant. Does seem like they’re having major issues."

"If it is affecting the i-series, then users also won’t be able to retrieve battery or range status either," he added.

The exact cause of the problem, much less when it's going to get resolved, remains unclear as of Thursday morning (24 July). BMW has yet to respond to requests from El Reg for comment on the issue. ®

Bonnetnote

ConnectedDrive is a mobile and web application that allows users to interface with on board systems of modern BMWs. Early versions allowed sending navigation destinations to the car and finding the vehicle on a map, before more functionality was added. Subsequent additions included the ability to sound the horn and flash the lights of a car remotely, making it easier to find vehicles in busy car parks.

Remotely checking the door lock status meant that car owners can check to see if they had forgotten to lock it, as well as the facility to lock car doors remotely.

The most recent iteration extended ConnectedDrive to support the i-series electric vehicles. Added functions allow the remote querying of battery charge status and provides an estimate of range of a car on a map.

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