reimagined / #BMW-i8
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Car manufacturers are increasingly introducing new technology concepts at the Consumer Electronics Show and this year BMW brought along its ‘ #i-Vision-Future-Interaction
’, a reworked i8 Spyder.
While the awkwardly-named i Vision Future Interaction might look like a cross between an i8 and a Z1 the focus of this new take on the i8 Spyder isn’t to do with unbridled driving pleasure, it’s more a possible window into the future in which BMW sees its vehicles as highly automated machines. The ultimate goal is ‘Vision Zero’, the idea of accident-free individual mobility, and to this end the car features three different drive modes – ‘Pure Drive’, ‘Assist’ and ‘Auto Mode’ which offer differing degrees of vehicle intervention in the driving process.
BMW says that its Pure Drive mode meets the typical BMW high aspiration for sheer driving pleasure at all times, with the car’s assistance systems used passively, only giving warning alerts without actually intervening in the control of the vehicle. The Assist setting provides optimum networking with the surrounding environment. The best route is calculated in real time and fed into the navigation system. The vehicle supports the driver’s performance and intervenes actively if there is danger of an event such as an accident, or if an obstacle on the road appears to be a safety risk.
When the car is in Auto Mode, the vehicle itself takes over control of sideways and forward orientation, accelerates independently, brakes and steers – without the driver having to intervene at all. BMW says that this sort of driving could soon become a reality and may be permitted on certain approved stretches of road, such as sections of German motorways or in Car Pool Lanes in the USA.
The BMW i Vision Future Interaction proactively gives drivers an alert if they are in a zone for highly automated driving. The driver can then change the drive mode as appropriate. The steering wheel is illuminated in blue in the highly automated drive mode. The colour scheme therefore provides a visual cue that the driver is in this drive mode. If the vehicle leaves the approved lane for highly automated driving and has to take control of the steering wheel again, a red light signal conveys this requirement. The BMW i Vision Future Interaction is therefore already providing an indication today of what the control functions might look like in the future in highly automated vehicles.
Of course, if the ‘driver’ isn’t actually driving, this gives him or her plenty of time to do other things and it’s for this reason that most manufacturers at the Consumer Electronic Show were touting the ‘connected’ car as being the next big thing with some cars on show being able to do bizarre things like inform you of the contents of your fridge, presumably so you can see if you have the required ingredients for the recipe you’ve just found online while cruising in fully automated mode.
Fortunately BMW hasn’t completely given up on the driver yet and as a result the CES Vision car has plenty of items focussed purely on the driver such as an advanced head-up display and an instrument cluster with a three-dimensional display. However, it’s the central panorama display that’s the most striking item inside the i8 Spyder and it’s pretty huge, being 11 centimetres high and 40 centimetres across with a diagonal length of 21 inches. When in Pure Drive mode the screen’s functionality would be limited, but when in Auto Mode it can stream video or display any other web content.
The screen is controlled by what BMW describes as ‘AirTouch’, gesture control for all communication, information and entertainment functions in the vehicle. It allows the big screen to be operated like a touchscreen – without actually having to touch it. Sensors are installed in the area of the dashboard panel which responds to hand movements. A movement of the hand can be used to go to a position on the panorama display and the selected icon is highlighted visually. If the hand is moved forward (push gesture), the icon is activated or the menu displays the next level.
Overall the i Vision Future Interaction is an interesting show car but only time will tell how soon the autonomous driving side of things will come to fruition – some experts predict we will have 10 (or even 20) million plus autonomous cars on the roads by 2020. The next few years will certainly be interesting that’s for sure!