BMW’s bold vision of the future is a shape-shifting, self-driving supercomputer with X-ray vision – a supercar with superpowers.
This is BMW’s centenary year. For one of the world’s most respected car makers, it could be an excuse for a self-congratulatory trawl through the back catalogue – and yes there has been a bit of that. But BMW also has a progressive outlook, so is turning towards its second century by designing a one-off concept car. It hypothesises a batch of ideas the firm sees itself putting into production cars two or three decades from now.
In some ways it’s also a response to a striking paradox of the coming era. BMW has always been known for driving dynamics, and for the particular response and sound of its combustion engines and transmissions. But future suspension systems will be more controlled by electronics and autonomous driving systems. And future powertrains will be simple electric motors with single-ratio transmissions – whether the electricity comes from hybrid systems, batteries or fuel cells. So the whole ‘feel’ of the car, both its dynamics and its powertrain, will move more into the domain of software. There’s a danger they might be easily reproduced by rivals. So BMW is working hard on new expressions of premium and dynamic design for the connected, digital, sharing era.
The Vision Next 100, as it’s rather un-snappily named, is supposed to be a car you would want to drive. It includes some novel driver-assist features aimed at making you a better driver rather than simply wresting control from you. But when you want it to, it can drive itself, and in that state it morphs its interior into something altogether more comfortable and sociable. And ironically for a company whose name translates as the Bavarian Engine Factory, BMW is revealing nothing about the car’s proposed form of propulsion, other than to say it’s zero emissions.