But while engine management is obviously, vitally important, there is just as much emphasis going into in-car technology, with manufacturers realising that consumers are demanding more and more gadgets. Graham Smethurst heads up the "infotainment" sector of BMW and is all too aware of how much faster the consumer electronics industry moves than the automotive industry. Smethurst was keen to tell me that BMW models due for launch in 2013 already exist mechanically, but the in-car technology doesn't.
The explosion of satellite navigation is a case in point. While car manufacturers have traditionally charged customers a princely sum for in-car navigation, third party companies like TomTom have managed to produce stand alone units that are far superior for a fraction of the price. BMW is well aware that in car technology needs to evolve, during the lifetime of a model and this is where its partnership with Intel comes into play once more.
BMW indicated that Intel's recently announced Atom CPU could play an integral part in future developments of in-car infotainment. Not only is Atom a low power and tiny processor, it would also give an in-car technology platform the ability to evolve and improve over time. Smethurst admitted mobile devices have caused quite an issue for car manufacturers, since consumers want to be able to use their latest gadget with their new car, whether that be a phone or even an MP3 player. In fact, he said that his goal would be that the second or even third owner of a car should be able to use their latest device without issue. The indication was that the in-car system should be updatable, much like modern consumer electronics devices, although whether end users will be able to update their cars remains to be seen. I can't help but think that firmware updates will be dictated by the dealer network.
I know that BMW isn't the only car manufacturer that Intel is working with on in-car technology, and this shows that Intel is intent to diversify into new markets, with traditional PC technology being just one of the many strings to its bow. I guess it's just a matter of time before we start seeing cars with "Intel inside" badges stuck on the boot - let's just hope they don't play the jingle when you turn the key.