Future Perfect? BMW VISION NEXT 100 / #BMW-Vision-Next-100
BMW’s 100th birthday present has landed and it’s packed full of futuristic technology. BMW is looking ahead to the future and is making the ‘next 100 years’ the focus of its centenary celebrations. This BMW Vision Next 100 is the concept car that was revealed at its big birthday party Words: Bob Harper. Photography: BMW.
On 7 March BMW celebrated its 100th birthday with a lavish event in Munich where the company laid out its plans for its centenary year. As we’d been expecting from all the hints that the company had dropped in the run up to the event, this was very much a case of BMW looking through its crystal ball and trying to imagine what the motoring world is going to look like 100 years hence. The highlight of the centenary was the presentation of what the company is calling the BMW Vision Next 100, a futuristic concept car that looks at some of the ways in which we might be making our journeys in the future.
Now BMW isn’t pretending to know what the future will bring, and it certainly hasn’t strapped into the DeLorean with Doc Brown and Marty McFly to bring us the answers to a thousand different questions, but by looking at the trends that are occurring now it is able to try and predict what might be happening a little way into the future.
One thing that just about all the experts from various different fields agree on is that in the future the main transformation that lies ahead is burgeoning urbanisation. Experts estimate that by 2050 more than 75 per cent of people in Europe and almost 90 per cent of people in the US will live in cities. At the same time, the requirement for greater individuality will increase. But what does this mean for the motor car and, more specifically, for a brand such as BMW that has always prided itself in putting the driver first?
‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ and ‘Sheer Driving Pleasure’ have been two of the company’s most quoted tag lines, but how will that sit with the increasing drive for autonomous cars? In its press pack to accompany the 100th birthday celebrations BMW says: “Over the coming years, mobility will become increasingly diverse. In the not-too-distant future most vehicles will probably be completely selfdriving – people will get around in robots on wheels.
So, given these developments, how will we justify the existence of vehicles by BMW?”
Fortunately BMW has always been at the forefront of vehicle design and technology and it will use this experience in the future to continue to be a trendsetter, a company to which other companies look to when deciding their direction in the future. And for die-hard BMW fans, those of us who love the ‘driving’ part first and foremost, the good news is that BMW is not yet ready to desert that part of its DNA.
However, the future of driving may be a rocky road for those of us who don’t like to relinquish control, especially when BMW says: “Right now, the company is on the verge of realising automated driving. With it will come a series of technical challenges but also a major opportunity for revolutionising mobility. In the future, Sheer Driving Pleasure will also be defined as liberating drivers through automation.” Fortunately it also reckons that while in the future BMW drivers will be able to let their cars do the work the most vital thing is that this will be “only when the driver wants”.
We’ll still have control which will be something to be celebrated in a few years down the line when the vast majority will be travelling in self-driving cocoons. So to the concept car, the BMW Vision Next 100. It’s styling still has unmistakable BMW DNA – wheels pushed out to the corners and an instantly recognisable athletic silhouette of a BMW Saloon. At 4.9 metres long it’s bang on the length of the current 5 Series but at just 1.37 metres high it’s lower by almost 100cm – so is effectively the height of a 4 Series Coupé. Unsurprisingly, though, given the theory that cars will become increasingly autonomous, BMW started its design for the Vision Next 100 with the interior. “In the years ahead,” BMW says, “the driver’s well-being will become increasingly important, and rather than merely feeling they are in a machine that drives itself, they should sense that they are sitting in one that was specifically designed for them.”
The Next 100 Concept revolves around the idea that the car will have two different modes ‘Boost’ mode and ‘Ease’ mode. In Boost the driver is at the controls, and benefits from the subtle and intuitive support offered by the vehicle. In Ease the driver can sit back and let the vehicle take over. The car becomes a place of retreat with plenty of space, agreeable lighting and a comfortable atmosphere.
All the time, the vehicle is learning more and more about the person at the wheel, thanks to its sensory and digital intelligence, which the BMW Group calls the Companion. The Companion progressively learns to offer the right kind of support to transform the driver into the Ultimate Driver.
As well as using technology to allow for the driverless car BMW is also showcasing the use of new materials on the Vision 100. It says: “At some point, presses that punch out hundreds of thousands of steel parts may well become obsolete. The use of carbon may already be a first indication of the sea change that is imminent in the world of automotive materials and production. Technologies such as rapid manufacturing and 4D printing will produce not components or objects but intelligent, networked materials.” And it is these latter components that form another vital part of the Vision 100 – ‘Alive Geometry’ – a kind of three-dimensional sculpture that works both inside and outside the vehicle. Alive Geometry consists of almost 800 moving triangles which are set into the instrument panel and into certain areas of the side panels. They work in three dimensions, communicating very directly with the driver through their movements, which are more like gestures than two-dimensional depictions on a display. Even the slightest peripheral movement is perceptible to the driver. In combination with the head-up display, Alive Geometry fuses the analogue with the digital.
In Boost and Ease mode alike, the elements and technologies of the vehicle make for the most intense or relaxed driving experience, depending on what is required. Transitioning between modes is perfectly orchestrated, and Alive Geometry remains active throughout. In Boost, when the driver is concentrating fully on the road, Alive Geometry highlights the ideal driving line or possible turning point and warns of oncoming vehicles. Rather than making the driver drive faster, this kind of support sets out to make them drive noticeably better. In addition, intuitive feedback has a more physical and immediate impact than a robotic voice or instructions on a screen. In Ease mode, on the other hand, Alive Geometry is more discreet in its movements, informing occupants about the road ahead and any acceleration or braking manoeuvres that are about to happen.
In Boost mode, the entire vehicle focuses on the driver, offering intelligent support to maximise the driving experience. The seat and steering wheel change position, and the centre console moves to become more strongly oriented toward the driver. As the journey proceeds, the driver can interact with the vehicle via gesture control.
Naturally the machine of the future will have full head-up display capabilities where it’s likely the entire windscreen will communicate with the driver. In Boost mode it will focus exclusively on key driver information, such as the ideal line, turning point and speed. In addition, full connectivity, intelligent sensors and permanent data exchange allow the head-up display to generate a digital image of the vehicle’s surroundings. In foggy conditions, for example, this means the driver can benefit from information such as vehicles crossing ahead before they are physically visible. In addition, by learning more and more about the driver, the system continuously improves, concentrating on creating the most intense and personal driving experience possible.
The transition to Ease mode brings about a complete change of interior ambience. The steering wheel and centre console retract and the headrests move to one side to create a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. The seats and door panels merge to form a single unit, allowing the driver and passengers to sit at a slight angle. This makes it easier for them to face each other and sit in a more relaxed position for easier communications. Meanwhile, the head-up display offers occupants personalised content along with the information and entertainment they desire.
It’s not just the way the Vision drives and communicates that is forward thinking as BMW is also looking at the materials which cars will be constructed from in the future. Thus the car’s designers have used fabrics made from recycled and renewable materials. The visible and non-visible carbon parts of the car are made from the residues from normal carbon fibre production, while items such as leather and wood will slowly be removed from the interiors of cars to be replaced with more sustainable items.
There’s certainly going to be plenty to get our heads around as far as motoring is concerned in the coming years, and while the likes of the Vision Next 100 might not get everyone’s driving juices flowing it’s going to be something we’ll have to get used to as the years roll by. Today we decide whether to spec our cars with a manual or automatic transmission; in the future no doubt we’ll simply have to decide whether to Boost or Ease.
BMW says the future of motoring might be about to change radically and the changes in the next ten years could be considerably more dramatic than they have been in the past 30. If you’re worried by all this, though, BMW does offer some assurance, saying: “Vehicles by BMW have never been purely utilitarian or merely a means of getting from one place to the next. Far more, a BMW is about looking to the next bend in the road, feeling the power of the engine and enjoying the sense of speed; it’s about the sensory experience, the adrenaline rush, or that intimate moment at which a journey begins – be it for a lone driver or one travelling with a close friend or loved one. Moving into the future, that’s not set to change.” If BMW builds for the future with that in mind we’re looking forward to the journey.
“Technologies such as rapid manufacturing and 4D printing will produce intelligent, networked materials”
“The driver’s well-being will become increasingly important”
Celebrations for the year ahead
During its centenary year BMW will be holding events around the world to celebrate. Following the Centenary Event, the BMW Vision Vehicle exhibition will set off on a world tour, including stops in China, the UK and the USA.
For its Asian premiere, the BMW Vision Next 100 will travel to Beijing (5-15 May). Later it will move on to London(16-26 June) where two further Vision Vehicles will join it, this time from the BMW Group’s British-based brands, MINI and Rolls-Royce.
The last port of call on the World Tour will be Los Angeles, USA (11-16 October), one of the BMW Group’s key markets. Here, the final Vision Vehicle, from BMW Motorrad, will complete the quartet of #BMW-Group
Along with the Vision vehicles BMW will be bringing an exhibition with it that it’s calling ‘Iconic Impulses: The BMW Group Future Experience’. According to BMW this will present “the company’s holistic view of future individual mobility – a perspective that sees the BMW Group and its brands continuing to create positive, emotional and personal experiences for its customers to enjoy”.
Back at base in Munich the ‘Future Experience’ will also open to the public in the double cone at BMW Welt while there will be a temporary exhibition from 10 March 2016 called ‘100 Masterpieces’ at the BMW Museum. This will present the milestones in BMW’s history, key company decisions, and information about models such as the 328, 507 and Turbo.
Later in the year (from 9-11 September) Munich will play host to the BMW Festival – The Next 100 Years – which will be held across the grounds of the Munich Olympic Park, including the Olympic Stadium, Olympic Hall and the ‘Parkharfe’, which is normally a parking area for visitors to the Park. The BMW Museum, #BMW
Welt and the area around the iconic ‘Four-Cylinder’ headquarters building will also be included, and events will be rounded off in the evenings by the BMW Festival Night. The first BMW Festival Night will be exclusively for BMW Group employees; the second will be open to the general public. High-profile personalities and international stars from the world of music will take to the stage, while renowned DJs will ensure a real festival atmosphere. (For more information about the BMW Festival log on to: www.bmw-festival.de).