Culture / Cars

BMW Unveils the Car of the Future

David Hasselhoff’s Buddy KITT Has Nothing on This Radical Ride

BY Jim Shi // 03.22.16

In a preview of design concepts that may be integrated into its future vehicles, BMW unveiled a radical concept car-cum-traveling companion, the Vision Next 100, at its Munich headquarters this month.

The eye-catcher, unveiled on the company’s 100th anniversary, is a four-seat electric, roughly the size of a BMW 5 Series, that, by the slimmest of margins, echoes traditional BMW styling, but is at least recognizable as a BMW; rival Mercedes-Benz’s even more radical F-105 Concept, with which the Vision Next shares some functional similarities, can be identified as a Mercedes only by the three-point star on the grill. It was introduced six months ago and morphs while in movement.

Constructed entirely of carbon fiber and composites, the Vision Next is sheathed in a reptilian-like 3D-printed flexible skin that can morph as driving conditions change. Turn the front wheels and its articulated skin stretches to uncover the wheels—and then snaps back when the turn is complete.

Inside the car, 800 interactive triangles cover the dash and other surfaces—“Alive Geometry” in BMW lingo—facilitating visual communication and data processing as gathered by the car’s optics. It also features “pop-ups” via a heads-up display that comprises the entire windshield to alert the driver to changing road conditions, oncoming traffic and other hazards.

Two driving modes are offered. When users toggle between self-driving and manual modes, literal physical changes take place in the cabin. In Ease Mode, the steering wheel and control console retract as it moves to full autonomous mode, the seats turn toward each other, and the windscreen allows web browsing and movie viewing. When Boost is selected, the car is under the control of the driver and the driving line, steering angle and speed are projected on the display.

Other drivers will know which mode you’re in based on different colors displayed through the headlights, taillights and grille.

After a few rides, the dashboard, which resembles an outsized diamond and is named “Companion,” gets to know its operator, enabling it “to always provide the right recommendations to meet personal mobility preferences, both during driving and outside the vehicle,” the automaker says. (For example, it might remember your favorite routes and stops along the way, or the ideal cabin temperature.)

“The driver is in constant communication with the vehicle in an intuitive and natural way,” says BMW. “At the same time, the vehicle expands the driver’s range of perception and transforms him or her into the ‘Ultimate Driver.’”

Either way, the Vision Next is highly attuned to owners’ needs and desires, providing maximum comfort and highly personalized rides.

Whether or not any of these fantastical concepts will make it into future BMWs remains to be seen, but the automaker has been at the forefront in future-proofing its vehicles, investing billions into starting an entire division from scratch dedicated to manufacturing eco-friendly electric cars, namely the i3 and i8.

The Vision Next 100 is scheduled to go on a world tour, with appearances in the United States, Britain and China, before ending at the BMW Festival in Munich in September.

KITT, eat your heart out.

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