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BMW outlines bold, tech-focused future

Bold Vision: BMW Group chairman Harald Krueger predicts that vehicles will become people’s digital “chauffeurs and personal companions”.

Vision Next 100 concept provides glimpse at future of mobility according to BMW


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8 Mar 2016

BMW has revealed a highly advanced concept car dubbed the ‘Vision Next 100’ that provides a compelling picture of its future development priorities, including autonomous-drive and digital technology and new construction and design techniques.

Presented at a special ‘Next 100 Years’ event in Munich this week – which marks the start of a year-long celebration of BMW’s centenary – the Vision Next 100 is the first of four concepts that will highlight the German prestige car manufacturer’s vision of the future – not just for itself, but for the broader automotive industry.

Following its Asian debut at the Beijing motor show next month, BMW will reveal Mini and Rolls-Royce Vision concepts in London in mid-to-late June, while a BMW Motorrad Vision motorcycle concept will debut in Los Angeles in October.

At this week’s event, BMW Group chief executive Harald Krueger said the company sees “new opportunities for premium mobility” and described its future models as “digital chauffeurs and personal companions”.

“Mobility is going to diversify,” he said. “In the future, people will want access to the right mobility solution for their needs in any given situation.

“As a vehicle producer, we need to develop a fuller understanding of mobility in all its facets and address the new points we discover. Connectivity is becoming increasingly mainstream. Our technologies will learn to learn from people.

“For a better quality of life, the BMW Group is going to turn data into intelligence. Soon, our cars will be digital chauffeurs and personal companions. They will anticipate what we want to do and make our lives easier for us.

“Transportation will become a personal experience that people will love because it’s precisely the way we want it to be. All of this forms part of our holistic vision of future mobility in 2030 and beyond. As always, the customer and their personal experience will remain the focus of what we do.” To identify the key projections in its vision for the next two to three decades at least, BMW Group undertook extensive research and used data from “well- regarded” studies and other sources as well as the opinions of respected “futurologists”.

The company says increased urbanisation will be one of the main drivers of change in personal mobility, with experts estimating that by 2050, more than 75 per cent of people in Europe and about 90 per cent of people in United States will live in cities.

Last year BMW Group’s Centre for Excellence in Urban Mobility looked at some of the issues relating to this and is now working with interest groups and various cities to develop sustainable concepts for urban mobility.

BMW predicts that the industry will change more in the next decade than it has in the past 30 years. It says digitalisation will play a key role in these major changes, particularly in relation to the production process.

Four areas identified by BMW include Smart Logistics, which aims to “increase transparency over the supply networks and optimise supply chains”, as well as ‘innovative automation systems’ such as flexible robots that can work alongside humans to assist with physically demanding tasks.

Additive manufacturing or 3D printing will be another area of focus, as will sustainability in terms of reducing the environmental impact of production and cutting the emissions of its fleet.

According to BMW Group Design chief Adrian van Hooydonk, the Vision Next 100 was created to demonstrate the various technologies that lay ahead for the company.

“If, as a designer, you are able to imagine something, there’s a good chance it could one day become reality,” he said.

“So our objective with the BMW Vision Next 100 was to develop a future scenario that people would engage with. Technology is going to make significant advances, opening up fantastic new possibilities that will allow us to offer the driver even more assistance for an even more intense driving experience.

“My personal view is that technology should be as intuitive as possible to operate and experience so that future interactions between human, machine and surroundings become seamless. The BMW Vision Next 100 shows how we intend to shape this future.” Underpinning the concept are four “proposals”, including the inevitability of autonomous cars, which BMW says have “become so widespread that it’s no longer a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’”.

The car-maker is confident that regardless of its autonomous capability, the Vision Next 100 is a “genuine BMW, offering an intense experience of ‘sheer driving pleasure’”.

Increased digitalisation means that physical and digital worlds will merge, while the way humans interact with technology will change dramatically, according to BMW.

“Screens and touchscreens will be replaced by more intuitive forms of human-machine communication and interaction. Better yet: technology will become more human,” the company says.

The company has also predicted the demise of traditional manufacturing techniques with 4D printing and rapid manufacturing producing “intelligent, networked materials” rather than components.

“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,” the company says.

The fourth “proposal” in developing the concept was the company’s commitment that mobility will remain an emotional experience, which it adds “is firmly fixed in our collective corporate memory”.

The coupe-like design of the Vision Next 100 points to future BMW models. Measuring 4900mmm long and 1370mm high, the vehicle has compact exterior dimensions but offers a similar amount of space to one of the company’s larger sedans.

While BMW’s iconic kidney grille remains, the traditional circular quad headlights have been replaced by four blade-like lights at the front.

Futuristic touches of the copper-coloured car include the wing doors that use a sensor to detect the driver approaching and automatically open the door.

It also features the intriguing Alive Geometry functional design element consisting of moving triangles. When the wheels turn, the bodywork keeps them covered like a “flexible skin” and can accommodate the wheel’s various positions.

No powertrain details have been released, but given BMW’s focus on sustainability, it is likely to be electrified.

Designers mostly used recycled or renewable materials in creating the concept with all carbon components made from the leftovers of normal carbon-fibre production.

BMW says to ensure more sustainable manufacturing in the future and to save resources, “less use will be made of wood and leather while innovative materials and the consequent new possibilities in design and production gradually come to the fore”, highlighted by the lack of leather in the concept’ s interior.

There is extensive use of the 3D Alive Geometry in the ultra-high-tech cabin, with about 800 moving triangles set into the instrument and some side panels communicating information directly with the driver through movements, and combined with the head-up display, fuses analogue and digital, according to BMW.

“The triangles work in much the same way as a flock of birds in controlled flight, their co-ordinated movements acting as signals that are easily comprehensible to those inside the car,” the company says.

“Combined with the head-up display, they involve the driver in a form of preconscious communication, where an intuitive signal predicts an imminent real-time event.

“Although at present it remains difficult to imagine how hundreds of tiny triangles could be co-ordinated to make Alive Geometry work, in the years ahead it will be possible, as today’s standard vehicle manufacturing methods are replaced. In the future it will become feasible to produce far more complex and flexible forms.” BMW says things such as head-up displays and screens as we know them today will be replaced by organic LEDs – displays that can change shape – and predicted that instead, “the entire windscreen will serve as a giant display, directly in front of the driver”.

The car-maker suggests two autonomous drive modes in future vehicles – Boost and Ease. Boost mode is when the driver has control of the vehicle and BMW says the entire focus is on the driver, with the seat and steering wheel changing position while the centre console becomes more oriented towards the driver.

When the Ease autonomous mode is selected, the steering wheel and console retract, the headrests move to the side for a “relaxed and welcoming atmosphere”, while seats and door panels merge allowing the driver and passenger to sit at a slight angle making it easier for them to face each other.

A device dubbed the Companion – shaped like a cut gemstone and positioned in the centre of the dash beneath the windscreen – gathers data about the vehicle’ s owner and their habits and eventually will know the driver well enough to automatically perform routine tasks and offer advice.

The Companion remains flat in the dash during Boost mode but rises up when Ease mode is selected.

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