PARIS, France – Dieter May is BMW’s senior vice president for digital products and services. Needless to say, he is enthusiastic about all things digital. But, perhaps more pertinently, he is focussed on the interaction between the digital product and the customer. We spent 10 minutes with him at the Paris Motor Show after experiencing BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant (which responds to the prompt "Hey BMW") in the new BMW 3 Series, asking the following three questions:

Is it a challenge to cater for mature customers as well as younger customers in terms of developing a Personal Assistant?

We don’t experience the generation gap to such an extent. Take our premium customers who are mostly over 50 year; they are as adamant about digital experiences as younger customers. They are very active on our Connected Drive platform regarding what they would like to see and experience in the future.

We have over four million customers on our connected platform who we digitally engage with. We truly believe that the Personal Assistant will be a game-changer in how we interact with the customer.

Apart from all the commands the Personal Assistant can execute, what are its other benefits?

With voice assistance it is much easier and simpler to automate routines. The moment you climb into your car, the seat, temperature, infotainment phone connection, etc. is all set for you as the customer. We also have an intelligent core behind our platform which is constantly learning what you would like to do with your car. Through constant remote software updates you can keep the car fresh and alive.

The Personal Assistant can maybe tell the customer what he has bought in terms of technology. A lot of customers don’t even know or use all the functions of their car. The Assistant can maybe ask them if they want to try out the high-beam assist when they are driving at night on the highway.

What about the future of this Personal Assistant software?

It will be more about what is on-board and what is off-board. A lot of the speech you hear from the Personal Assistant today is on-board, but, if you want traffic information in real time, you need to go off-board. This means that you need to have a basic system in the car when you are off-line, but most of the time you will be connected offering the system’s full capability – similar to how we use cellphones.

The new BMW 3 Series will be launched in South Africa in March 2019.

Dieter May Dieter May is BMW’s senior vice president for digital products and services.