BMW is developing “mobility services” for a new “i” sub-brand of electric cars, which will feature wireless technology and apps, in a move to differentiate its vehicles in the crowded lot of automakers.

The Germany-based luxury carmaker, which plans to invest $100 million into mobile and eco-auto technologies, said its first partnership with New York-based MyCityWay, an interactive app for urban exploration, provides real-time traffic information, as well as user-driven data like parking availability, Wi-Fi availability, restaurants menus, apartments for rent and even local entertainment.

BMW, which invested $5 million MyCityWay, said the app is available in over 40 U.S. cities, and is free for Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and soon on Research in Motion’s BlackBerry devices.

The company is expected to offer additional enhanced services and app-related products in its two electric vehicles, the i3 and the i8, set to launch in 2013. The vehicles are aimed at drivers in “megacities,” or large urban centers such as including New York City, Shanghai, Tokyo, London and Paris, where pollution control is strict and drivers have special eco-requirements.

“We will generate profit from those services, but we also plan to introduce people to the BMW brand through them,” said Ian Robertson, BMW’s chief of sales and marketing.

Car companies, looking are adopting mobile technologies to extend their brands beyond automobiles, are starting to push out apps that connect drivers to their electric vehicles and digital media. Volvo plans to launch an app offering controls of its forthcoming hybrid V60, while Ford and Toyota are working on developing in-car systems synchronized to smartphone apps.


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