Originally published on CleanTechnica.
BMW is turning 100, but it’s not content to go down in the history books as a brand that aged gracefully — but rather, is dying those grey hairs orange and dressing up for a night on the town. In other words, BMW threw a huge bash in Munich at the BMW Group Centenary Event and pulled the cover off a bold new concept that lays bare the brand’s vision for the next 100 years of BMW… or at least the foreseeable future.
The BMW Group honed in on 3 themes that capture the essence of the brand for the next few decades: the capacity to learn and adapt, technological innovation, and a sense of responsibility toward society. These three ideals are woven into the new concept vehicle throughout with next-gen computing and AI forming the heart of the future of BMW.
Alive Geometry was revealed as the branded name for the AI that parses out the various cameras, sensors, navigation, GPS, big data, and learned patterns to actively predict hazards, trends, and traffic — and proactively works to head them off. Check out the brief video BMW released demonstrating this next-gen predictive AI here.
Getting back to the car, the Vision Next 100 concept is a bold thrust into the future for the brand, with an exterior that looks like a BMW i8 went off for a scandalous weekend with the lone Faraday Future concept and came home hiding in a sheet, shamed. The front comes up to meet you with the signature BMW kidney grills, which look a bit awkward on what is presumably an electric car (we are talking about the future, right?).
Cracking open one of the suicide “swan wing” doors reveals a surprisingly static interior. Forward-looking elements like the tiny twin grip steering wheel and floating headrests clash with seemingly 80s retro seats and angles that look like they were pulled from retired Back to the Future prop sheds.
With BMW being known for providing the Ultimate Driving Experience, autonomous driving seems contradictory to the very lifeblood of the car, as evidenced by the persistent steering wheel that just won’t go away. It feels as though autonomous cars are just around the corner from us here in 2016, so the fact that the Vision Next 100 has such a traditional layout with 4 forward-facing seats and a steering wheel is a bit of a shocker, but as a compromise, this “hybrid drive mode” car allows for either driver-controlled or vehicle-controlled driving.
BMW is not just looking at the parent brand here, but is taking the BMW Vision Next 100 on a world tour, picking up Vision Vehicles from sister brands Mini and Rolls Royce in London and a Motorrad at a final stop in Los Angeles.
While BMW’s vision of delivering premium, effortless mobility, comprehensively available and tailored to every customer’s individual preferences sounds easy and there are some solid pillars of those themes in this concept, there are also some sizeable gaps that need a bit more meat on the bone before I’m sold.
Let’s see autonomous driving in a current car — or at least some next-gen Active Safety tech. Let’s see that steering wheel disappear. If drivers still want to be able to drive, do it with a touch interface, gestures, or a mobile device. Luxury? How about seats that look comfortable and not rigid. Make it about me. Be bold about electric — it really is the future of the automotive industry… or at least the next 30–50 years of it. You want the future? The future doesn’t need the grill… it just doesn’t.
While the champagne from the party has all gone flat and the car has left town, you can still revel in the energy from the event by browsing through the press release.