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BMW Owner Discovers Car’s Software Update Won’t Install When Parked on Incline

Consider this a cautionary tale: before you buy a BMW i4, make sure that your driveway is flat.
BMW I4 Update Flat Ground Hero
via BMW, screenshot via Twitter

A BMW i4 owner was rightfully puzzled when their car flashed a strange alert on the screen, saying its parking spot was “too steep” to perform an over-the-air software upgrade. How does that happen? And why is it a problem in the first place?

As Clare Eliza found out, it simply isn’t possible to remotely update any of the i4’s software if the car isn’t parked on flat ground. And instead of allowing the operator to override this, it will wait until you physically move it somewhere more level to continue.

As it turns out, BMW doesn’t have one singular reason why the vehicle can’t perform this task on an incline. Rather, the limitation is there as a safety blanket.

“The vehicle has all sorts of sensors (pitch, yaw, lateral and longitudinal acceleration and deceleration, etc.) that allow it to understand its orientation, so it knows when it’s on an incline,” a BMW spokesperson told The Drive. “It’s likely a catchall, every-worst-case-no-matter-how-unlikely scenario safety precaution to try to prevent any chance of the vehicle moving should the programming be interrupted or go wrong.”

Essentially, it’s there just in case something unexpected happens; it’s better to plan for the worst, after all. Perhaps this would make sense if an actuator had to be cycled as part of the software upgrade, or if a fail-open scenario might happen with one of its crucial components that could risk a rollaway condition.

But flat ground isn’t the only requirement for a vehicle to upgrade its software. BMW confirmed to The Drive that there are other prerequisites that must be met as well:

  • The vehicle needs to be in an active remote software upgrade campaign
  • The download needs to be completed, which is fully automatic when connected to the internet via cellular or BMW Connected App
  • It must have sufficient battery charge level
  • The vehicle cannot be parked on an incline
  • The transmission must be in Park
  • The engine, if it has one, must be turned off

Now, sure, this is inconvenient, especially if you live in a hilly area. Nobody wants to drive to a random parking lot just to wait with their car while its software updates. But, it’s a lot better than having to schedule a dealer appointment and have them complete the upgrade instead, right? I guess that’s a bit of a silver lining in the era of connected cars. Either way, it’d be nice to have an option along the lines of, “Yeah, I chocked the tire.”

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