Every other year, at a huge convention center in Frankfurt called the Messe, the global automotive manufacturers display their latest technology. If you've been to the New York Auto Show at the Javits Center, it's like that... times ten. As you might imagine, the Big Three German auto manufacturers have top billing. For example, Daimler-Benz is allocated a building half the size of the Javits Center - just for themselves - and there isn't a Chrysler in sight. It's quite a spectacle to see the multitudes of people that visit this wonderful event every other year. If you have the opportunity to visit Frankfurt during the show, try to schedule at least one full day, starting early in the morning, because unlike the NY Auto Show, each convention day ends at 7pm. It is better to stay two days if you have the time and the shoes for it. During part of my visit, I was so mesmerized in an area filled with electronic automotive components that I completely lost track of time. Don't forget to bring your German-English dictionary and a lot of patience to try to understand all the technology that you will experience.
One free evening at the Auto Show, I was lucky to charm my way into a special Invitation-Only private reception and presentation for BMW owners to check out the vehicles and technology BMW had on display at IAA. This was no small feat as there was much security to prevent individuals from sneaking into this evening of good food, drink, and unfettered access to all the wonderful cars on display. It was like the special breakfast event that BMW NA sponsors for the BMW CCA at the New York Auto Show... times ten. While the presentation was in German, it was still very interesting to listen to BMW executives talk about the new 5er, 6er, and X3.
While at the reception, I had the chance to talk to the engineer responsible for a new program called BMW Connected Drive. One aspect of this technology is the way the BMW Web Portal will integrate the Navigation system to the Communication system (ultimately via the user's bluetooth cellphone) and the car's internal computer systems. Imagine driving into a German city and having your car communicate automatically with the parking garage closest to your destination to determine whether there is space for your car. Another interesting aspect of this technology includes anonymous car-to-car communication whereby situations such as traffic, accidents, or weather conditions (such as ice or fog) are reported from BMW to BMW within a 5km radius, warning drivers of potential road hazards via the Adaptive Cruise Control. Far fetched? Nope, this technology will be available in Europe in 2004.
In addition to all the technology in their current models, BMW displayed their ground-breaking hydrogen research vehicles - performance-oriented automobiles that you would be proud to drive. As BMW was the first to get their hydrogen fuel tank approved by the DOT in this country in the late 90s, this technology is very compelling. There is excellent information on their website, http://www.h2-lab.com which has some interactive demonstrations for you to try.
So mark your calendars in 2005 for the IAA in Frankfurt! It starts on
September 15th and remains open until September 25th 2005. See you there!