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Fully redesigning the driving experience: technological breakthroughs go hand in hand with new experiences for drivers and passengers. Digital technologies are now an integral part of our everyday lives and will play an ever greater role in cars in the future. BMW doesn’t just want to be part of this development – it wants to drive it forward.
We show how BMW recognizes technical opportunities and challenges and uses innovative spirit to develop solutions that help shape the future of mobility (➜ Read also: Electric car facts from around the world). Dr. Pascal Theissen and Sebastian Cyppel are entertainment experts and have taken rear-seat entertainment to a completely new dimension with the BMW Theatre Screen for the BMW 7 Series.
Sebastian Cyppel, Product-Owner-Customer Entertainment at the BMW Group
As an electronic engineer, Sebastian Cyppel has worked in development at BMW for some time and has seen how the entertainment department has practically become its own company within the organization. He found out firsthand how fast digital services are introduced and accepted by the population through competitor analyses in China. In his current role as Product-Owner-Customer Entertainment, he is driven first and foremost by the enthusiasm that BMW customers have for the new technologies.
Dr. Pascal Theissen, Development – Entertainment, In-Car-Store, Apps at the BMW Group
As his father worked for BMW, Pascal Theissen was already familiar with the brand as a child. Today, it is the digital aspects of cars and the experiences that can be created with them which fascinate him. Exploiting the varied toolbox of digital possibilities to create great products for the customers is his specialty. For five years, he and his team developed the new BMW Theatre Screen for the BMW 7 Series.
How does BMW understand the role of the driver and passengers in 2022 and which special features does the interior of the BMW 7 Series offer when it comes to experiencing entertainment from a new perspective?
Dr. Pascal Theissen The central brand value of BMW is Freude (pleasure, joy) and in the past, the “Sheer Driving Pleasure” slogan was confirmed by drivers. That was and will always be our mission. However, in recent years, this message has been expanded. Freude isn’t just when I push the car to the limit, when I take a corner smoothly, or when I accelerate; Freude is also what I experience in the car and with my passengers. Our aim is to make Freude an experience for everyone in the car.
Sebastian Cyppel With this in mind, we have created a sort of living room experience on wheels in the BMW 7 Series – and the BMW Theatre Screen in the back plays a very special role here, of course. At 31.3 inches, it has the largest display of any series production vehicle.
Could it be that a driver who used to remember a certain mountain pass whose hairpin turns were particularly fun will in the future remember a movie or series they watched in their BMW?
Sebastian Cyppel The mountain pass will still be fun in the future, but yes, maybe they will have their first date in the car, watch a film together on the BMW Theatre Screen and then remember this shared moment later. It will offer completely new memories that will connect the customer to their BMW. In our digital strategy, we talk about the new “Moments of Joy.”
We create moments full of joy.
Product Owner Customer Entertainment at the BMW Group
The BMW Theatre Screen
The BMW Theatre Screen is a 31.3-inch panoramic display with a 32:9 aspect ratio in the back of the BMW 7 Series. The 8K resolution can be used to stream films or series via the Amazon Fire TV and the personal eSIM using 5G connectivity. There is 128 GB storage available for offline content. The Theatre Mode controls the lowering of the BMW Theatre Screen, visually shields the interior from the outside world and adjusts the interior lighting. The BMW Theatre Screen is available for all models in the BMW 7 Series as part of the optional Rear Seat Entertainment Experience.*
As an expert on in-car technology and entertainment, you have surely come up against completely new challenges.
Sebastian Cyppel In the last few years, there was a move away from particular devices and media to content that is always available everywhere through streaming and cloud applications. The use of these services has to work seamlessly. If I sit in my living room and stream a series and find myself sitting in the back of a BMW 7 Series a little while later, I have come to expect that I will be able to use this service here too and can continue watching my series. The BMW Theatre Screen fulfills these expectations. The vehicle is now part of the digital sphere – part of the digital nature of our customers.
Dr. Pascal Theissen The customer also doesn’t want to have some kind of BMW specific technical challenge; instead, they want what they experience on the couch in the living room to work in the car, too. And we want to create the best possible experience for that. The applications in the car, especially with regard to entertainment for the driver, may sound a little futuristic for some. But we can already see it used today – when they take a break to recharge the car, for example. In a world of automated driving, there will be even more situations like this.
Dr. Pascal Theissen Everyone has that moment when they get out of the car with a smile on their face because they have experienced something special. And that is also the case with the BMW Theatre Screen. When I observe someone who is seeing how the huge display slides down for the first time and who can’t just hear the speakers, but feels them too, I see smiling faces. I have two sons, seven and ten years old, and when I brought a test vehicle home, they suddenly didn’t care where we were going. They sat in the back and that was a very special experience for them. It got to the point where we had actually planned a movie night at home and they decided that we should move it to the car because it was more fun there. I don’t think it does any harm to look at a car through the eyes of a child now and again.
Luckily, kids have no idea how complex it is to develop this kind of system to make it ready for series production.
Sebastian Cyppel The process is very complicated, that’s true. Ultimately, it’s not just about the technology, it’s also about the philosophy behind it. The question of whether that suits BMW. After all, it’s still a BMW that should be incredibly fun to drive.
Dr. Pascal Theissen Aside from the driving experience,we wanted to bring the rear area of the BMW 7 Series to a whole new level. Often, you have an image in your head that the rear seats in cars like these only serve the productivity of businesspeople. But entertainment and the opportunity to sit back and relax play just as great a role for customers. The family and children in particular often travel in the back too. This means that we have to keep in mind who we are actually developing this product for. We wanted a cinema-like atmosphere. A huge screen on its own is not enough for this. The seats, dimming of the lights in the cabin, and the 4D sound address feelings across multiple dimensions.
We also shouldn’t forget that cars are complex products that are worked on over many years and decades, and that many components have very specific shapes because they have to combine so many characteristics and requirements. For the BMW 7 Series, the challenge was to redevelop the car around the BMW Theatre Screen, so to speak. This affects things like the air conditioning, for example, as the large display alters airflow through the vehicle. Then the traffic around the car has to be shielded – for privacy reasons but also so that other road users are not distracted. The passengers in the car should also not be endangered by this display in any situation. To guarantee the passive safety, all mechanisms that are needed to slide the screen in and out are heavily reinforced so that they would not break in the event of the car rolling over. Safety glass is also used.
In the past, this kind of technology could actually only be seen in concept cars or maybe on reality TV shows, and suddenly, we are at the point where it is in series production.
Sebastian Cyppel One enormous challenge is fulfilling the internal quality requirements of BMW, not only with regards to safety, but also in terms of creating an inspiring experience for our customers. The BMW Theatre Screen has to withstand both -40 degrees Celsius in Sweden and +50 degrees Celsius in Dubai. We have therefore established a USP amongst the competition and will continue to work hard on shaping the digital experience in the interior of the future.
Dr. Pascal Theissen A large screen is all well and good, but if there is no content available for it, the best hardware won’t get you anywhere. That means that we have invested a lot of time and spoken with many companies to bring the best possible content for the customer into the car and to provide it in the same familiar way as at home, without them needing new logins or to go through a complicated registration process. This is why we got together with Amazon, so that we could provide pretty much all the entertainment options – but this isn’t as simple or trivial as you might think. Sure, you could say everything is there, you just have to integrate it into the car – but the software development was really challenging.
The world of entertainment electronics with its mechanisms and standards has to be brought into a vehicle context that has very different applications. At home, you have a continuous supply of electricity, but you don’t necessarily have that in a car, as this would drain the battery after a week. This means that energy-saving mechanisms suddenly become relevant, and this means different triggers and signals are needed. You also have a stable internet connection in your living room. With a car, however, you sometimes drive through remote areas with patchy network coverage. Content needs to be buffered as much as possible or even available offline.
The thing that spurs me on to design such products is the possibility of putting a smile on people’s faces.
Development – Entertainment, In-Car Store, Apps at the BMW Group
Do you have a feeling for what will be short-lived digital trends and what will be a long-term feature?
Dr. Pascal Theissen We always have a close eye on future technologies and trends, of course. That’s why we also placed great importance on creating something very future-proof with our platform and hardware with its high 8K resolution. For example, when we started development, Disney+ didn’t even exist yet. We consciously chose a nonspecific path for BMW and started a partnership with Amazon. And because we did that, we will naturally develop along with this ecosystem from one of the largest tech companies in the world and be able to offer maximum variety.
The automotive industry is now experiencing a very exciting period, especially with regard to digitalization. Do you sometimes get the feeling that you are helping to shape something truly great? Not just for BMW, but for the entire industry?
Sebastian Cyppel Digitalization is progressing incredibly fast and it is up to us to react to this speed. We have done our homework and planned for the very long term. We will constantly improve the software and the customer won’t have to take the car in for that – they will receive over-the-air updates. We will continue to be vigilant and not rest on our laurels, to ensure that we can initiate the next step and the one after that.
Dr. Pascal Theissen The automotive industry is not always at the pinnacle of digitalization due to the strict safety requirements and diverse application areas that we have already mentioned. But cars are an important part of many people’s private lives, mobility, and self-expression. Thanks to entertainment and other services, we now have the chance to take the Freude associated with a BMW into a new, digital age.
Author: Tassilo Hager, David Barnwell; Art: Verena Aichinger, Carolin Wabra; Photos: Laura Schaeffer; Video: BMW