BMW owners can now make Skype calls while driving — what could possibly go wrong?
Your car is no longer a safe haven from meetings or colleague calls after BMW partnered with Microsoft to bring Skype for Business to its latest 5 Series model.
At this week’s annual Innovation Days event in Chicago, BMW announced it will expand its in-car business tools to include the ability to take part in Skype meetings while driving. This feature will be integrated and operated through BMW’s iDrive system.
The software will alert the driver to upcoming meetings, or if a meeting has been rescheduled. It will offer to start the next meeting without the need to dial a phone and Microsoft Exchange will also sync with calendars, to-do lists and contacts using the car’s voice and satnav.
A premium version of Skype for Business typically costs £9.40 per month for a year’s contract.
This announcement is the latest business-focused tool BMW has added to its range. In 2016, Microsoft and BMW announced a partnership to build a platform called Open Mobility, which powers BMW Connected. In December, following the launch of the 5 Series, BMW started selling Office 365 services to drivers through Microsoft Exchange. According to Microsoft figures, there are more than 100 million commercial monthly active users of Office 365.
“In today’s always-on culture, people need to be productive from anywhere – including their cars,” explained Microsoft’s Ulrich Homann in a blog post. “Commute times are reaching record highs and people work from a variety of locations. This means that people need a way to capitalise on time spent in their cars.
“At Microsoft, we believe cars should be more than just a ride, and also be a personal office on wheels, helping people be productive and giving them time back to enjoy their lives.”
The services will launch in Germany, France and the UK before rolling out to other markets soon. Dates and locations have not been announced.
The partnership is likely to raise concerns among road-safety groups. A recent report from Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University found that using voice to send messages and schedule meetings while driving is just as dangerous as texting.
The report discovered that both methods impacted driver response times equally. This is such a concern that in June, Apple unveiled a safety feature as part of iOS 11’s Apple Maps app called Do Not Disturb While Driving, which can automatically detect when you’re driving, silence notifications, and send out an auto-reply to messages. It previously added Eyes-Free technology to its CarPlay software.
These findings were contradicted, somewhat, by research from Carnegie Mellon University and the London School of Economics and Political Science that suggested talking while driving does not increase crash risk. Researchers combined data from network operators with accident reports and found there was no direct correlation between the number of calls made and the number of crashes.
Alphr has contacted Microsoft, BMW and the UK’s road safety charity Brake for comment on these concerns.