MUNICH, Germany — BMW Group could turn to space to ensure its connected vehicles stay online.
The German automaker is exploring plans to bring satellite-based Internet access to its sedans and crossovers, said Stephan Durach, senior vice president of BMW Group's connected company development unit.
Customers expect a stable Internet connection at all times, Durach said at a media briefing here last month.
So-called nonterrestrial network technology offers the potential for seamless connectivity, and BMW is evaluating future applications and partnership possibilities.
"We're looking at satellite communication, especially in an environment where cellphone reception is not good," Durach said. "A lot of places in Europe and the U.S., you don't have sufficient coverage."
Robust in-vehicle Internet connectivity is now table stakes as automakers rely on over-the-air software updates to unlock features and dish out digital services like video streaming.
But for now, the high cost and limited data transmission capacity make satellite-based Internet service the "connection of last resort," said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at Guidehouse Insights.
"If you break down or run out of battery power in the middle of Nebraska where there's no cell coverage, satellite connectivity will allow you to send a message for roadside assistance," Abuelsamid said. "It's peace of mind."
Abuelsamid doesn't see automakers leaning on satellite connectivity for vehicle data transmission, just yet.
"Most of the data an automaker would want to transmit is not time-sensitive," he said. "They can cache it until the car is back in wireless service range."