From 2003, BMW will offer Mini buyers the opportunity to integrate a pocket-sized PC into the car’s electronic systems.

The Mini will offer a fully-integrated portable Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) in the form of the Compaq iPAQ pocket PC. The hand-held PDA slots into a bracket on the dashboard above the speedo and features up to four inter-connected systems that download information digitally. When not in the car, the PDA can be connected to a desk-top PC allowing any relevant information to be up- or down-loaded.

The four systems are navigation, telephone/SMS, Mini assist/online and entertainment and each can be customised to the owner’s requirements. Integrating all four systems offers features including navigation, traffic news, text messages, e-mail, an address book, news, entertainment information, links to the emergency services and weather. Additional hardware and software offers the opportunity to download MP-3 music files and convert the PDA into a mobile ‘phone or digital camera.

Navigation uses satellite positioning (GPS) to download maps Europe-wide. The maps are scaled up and voice commands issued at junctions, and if the driver deviates from the route, or a traffic jam is anticipated, alternative routes are supplied.

Telephone/SMS integrates with a hands-free telephone kit. The PDA system works as a ‘Yellow Pages’ style database and can send and receive calls and text messages via the hands-free kit. Messages can also be written on the PDA outside the car then sent via the ‘phone when the PDA is re-connected in the car.
Mini assist can pinpoint the car’s location to the emergency services if involved in, or passing the scene of, an accident. It can also give out traffic information, advise on avoiding delays and connect occupants with a call centre that can locate hotels, restaurants, cinemas and other recreational destinations.

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Mini online is a mobile internet portal that includes e-mail, address book, ‘phone book and details on parking information, yellow pages, news (sport, business, politics), share prices, city guides, travel information, cinema, weather, 24 hour chemists and a three-dimensional view of the car’s location. All information received can be transferred to the telephone/SMS and navigation systems.

The entertainment module can download MP-3 files, which play back through the standard stereo system.

All functions are inter-connected. A car’s occupants can receive a text from a friend via telephone/SMS, or an e-mail via the onlineserive, requesting to meet at a restaurant. This can then be forwarded to a PDA service operator. The operator can then locate a venue and book a table, inputting the destination into the navigation system, which directs the driver to the restaurant. The car’s occupants can then reply to the text or e-mail confirming the meeting venue. Alternatively, the occupants can locate and book their own choice of venue via the assist service.

If the car is involved in an accident an automatic emergency call is sent to the call centre if the airbags are triggered. A call centre operator would then attempt to contact the driver and if the call is not returned, send an ambulance to the location of the accident. Similarly, the driver can press an emergency button if he/she sees an accident and the exact location is then communicated to the emergency services.

The navigation, telephone/SMS and entertainment systems described will be launched on the PDA in Germany in autumn 2002 followed by assist and online service in March 2003. The UK is aiming to launch a similar system in spring 2003. Prices are yet to be announced.