As of March 7th, BMW has been building excellence for 100 years. It’s been a good run, right? Well, in Munich on the 100th anniversary, BMW let us know, loud and clear, that we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Behold the future, BMW’s Vision Next 100.
Karim Habib, Head of Design over at BMW Automobiles, sums up the insane and incredible concept car by saying “In the future, the digital world and the analog world will work together to provide a seamless experience.” Yeah, this is how Skynet started, this car is basically the T1000.
“No, be serious, the T1000 could change shape, this is just a car” you say? Did I not mention that the Vision Next 100 changes shape. Why does it change shape? Because awesome. That’s why. Well, technically it’s part of BMW’s “alive geometry” which allows the fender skits (which cover about 95% of the wheel) to actually change shape, depending on the angle of the tire and the aerodynamic needs of the car. More of this alive geometry can be seen inside the cabin, where small triangles flow across the dash like a flock of seagulls, indicating changes in the road, traffic, and, other, more mundane things like the proximity of bier maid wenches (this “bmw” detection option may not make it to the production vehicle).
Think the fact that the car is basically a transformer might be distracting to some drivers? That’s fine. Switch the car into “Ease” mode and the steering wheel retracts, the passenger and driver seats turn to face each other and the windscreen turns into an entertainment system. Imagine cuddling up with your passenger and watching the chase scene from Ronin while cruising through the alps in your Vision Next 100. Yeah, that’s about the apex of driving experience right there.
What if you don’t want to be complicit in the rise of the machines? You’re covered, switch the car into “Boost” mode and you are in control. BMW’s AI will still help out with little things like parking and traction control, but you get to look straight out the window and push the gas, just like in old-fashioned cars.
In between Ease and Boost are two other modes which have varying levels of AI interaction. Think of Boost as level 1, it’s basically what you do now behind the wheel. Level 2 might introduce some more advanced safety features like lane departure, adaptive cruise control, course correction, and assisted breaking. Level 3 would see more control turned over to the vehicle, like self-parking. At level 4, you’re in Ease and can take a nap while Hal 9000 drives you to wherever the robots will keep the human workforce.
It’s early days yet, and we know that concept cars are more about “Holy crap, look what we could do!!!” than “Here is a reasonable approximation of the vehicle we hope to deliver to you in the near future”, but if this is just a taste of what the next 100 years are going to look like, I’m putting down the burgers and picking up a salad. I want to be around for this!