BMW adds facial recognition system to Boxer models

With AI and facial recognition software in the mainstream news lately, new technologies are finding more ways to integrate into the daily lives of regular people, whether they are wanted or not. BMW wants to change that.

Enter BMW Motorrad’s latest system to thwart thieves. The German brand is now the first motorcycle manufacturer in the world to incorporate a face recognition system that makes the traditional ignition key superfluous with its BMW iFace facial recognition key.

The BMW iFace is a dual system that can be authenticated using face recognition without a helmet or by iris-cornea scanning of the eyes, even with the helmet on. (Photo: BMW Motorrad)

BMW iFace was developed in cooperation with Professor Dr. Gerhard Lesjöh, head of the Institute for Ophthalmology at the University of Munich. The system offers facial recognition of the rider’s face on the one hand and also an iris-cornea comparison of the eyes for definite identification on the other.

Face recognition

Face recognition uses the latest 3D technology integrated into the ultra-modern BMW Motorrad TFT display, which is not visible from the outside. This is carried out by means of stripe projection, a technology that has been used for many years for example in reverse engineering. With the helmet removed, the face is scanned three-dimensionally and biometrically.

This three-dimensional image is compared with a data record stored in the system. If the calibration is positive, the ignition, steering lock and other locking functions are released and the rider can start the motorcycle. Since the 3D scan works with infrared scanning, this type of face recognition also works in the dark.

Iris cornea matching

According to BMW’s press materials, iFace operates as a dual system for comfort and safety. For example, the rider can be authenticated either using face recognition (without a helmet) or by iris-cornea scanning of the eyes. This type of authentication enables the system to identify the rider even with the helmet on, as only the iris and cornea are scanned and compared with the data stored in the system.

BMW says this infrared technology ensures functional reliability even in the dark. They employ a special polarization filter that can scan through heavily tinted and even mirrored visors, different types of glasses, and contact lenses. The rider enters the type of visor and visual aid he is currently using in the display prior to the scanning process using the corresponding menu functions.

Identifying thieves

In case of attempted theft, not only does the BMW Motorrad call center receive a corresponding message about the attempted theft via a special code, but the scan data (face or eye scan) and the current geographical position data are transmitted in parallel to an international database of the Federal Police authorities.

If corresponding data material is found there, a search can be initiated immediately. If no suitable data is available, the transmitted scan data will be stored in this database for possible use at a later date.


Field trial

The technology has been developed and tested in field trials for more than three years, according to BMW. Dr. Burkhard Hund, Head of Theft Protection at BMW Motorrad comments: “Our special thanks go not only to the Bavarian State Office of Criminal Investigation, but especially to Giovanni Häberle. Today a respected owner of a consulting firm for theft and burglary protection in the Stuttgart-Stammheim area, the Swabian was an invaluable help to us in developing this system thanks to his decades of expertise as a professional vehicle thief.”

BMW iFace will be unveiled at select motorcycle shows in 2023, with plans to be implemented on its Boxer models.

(Editor’s Note: This “fake news” was released on April 1. We have to tip our hat to BMW Motorrad. They got us good! #AprilFools )