2014 BMW i3: Sending Out an SOS
by Jonathan Elfalan, Road Test Editor on September 22, 2015
If you own a late model BMW, you may have noticed a button overhead with a phone icon and the letters "SOS" printed on it. There's also a good chance you've never pressed this button.
What does this button actually do? If you look in the BMW owner's manual, it says it should be pressed only in case of an emergency. But what constitutes an emergency? Does it have to be life-threatening or could I summon help for running out of gas — or in the case of our 2014 BMW i3, battery juice? What if the button didn't work?
I wanted answers, so I pressed it.
The first surprise was that the "SOS button" was actually a spring-loaded cover for a much more official looking button. It had a "break-glass-to-activate-ejection-seat" sort of appearance, which gave me a bit of pause.
Images of SWAT teams swarming the Santa Monica DMV lot where I was parked flashed through my mind, along with the anticipation the i3 would wildly sound its horn and lights to let the cavalry know where we were. Or, even worse, there would be an irate person on the other side of the call, verbally reprimanding me for abusing BMW's SOS protocol.
I believe it was once said that courage is acting in spite of fear.
Within 40 seconds of activating the SOS function, I was connected directly to a BMW Assist operator. Like other emergency telematics systems, the call was placed using the i3's onboard cellular link, and not through the car's Bluetooth phone connection.
The operator was not only unphased by my non-emergency emergency call, but willing to explain in detail what our i3's BMW Assist services included. Depending on how your vehicle is equipped, services will vary, but below is what is included with our i3.
10 years complimentary:
- Automatic Crash Notification (your car puts out an emergency call/notification in the event of a crash)
- SOS request (call police, ambulance, road-side assistance, etc)
4 years complimentary:
- Road-side assistance
3 years complimentary:
- Remote door unlock (calling customer service, door unlocked remotely)
- Stolen vehicle locator
If you have an SOS button in your vehicle and have never pressed it out of fear or lack of curiosity, it's actually a good idea to do so to ensure that it works as intended. Ours works fine, but we can't guarantee yours isn't an ejection seat button.
Jonathan Elfalan, Road Test Editor @ 7,652 miles