BMW sets the bar high for its future autonomous cars
BMW has unveiled concepts for Mini, Rolls-Royce, and its namesake brand to demonstrate its vision for future mobility. All concepts bear the “Vision Next 100” name and offer very different versions of what a future autonomous vehicle could look like.
MINI Vision Next 100
Mini’s latest concept takes the brand’s existing philosophy of personalization and merges it with the culture of ride sharing. “In the future, as now, people will be attracted in great numbers to Mini cars and the attitude to life associated with them. But it may not actually be necessary to own a Mini to be part of the action,” BMW says.
That’s where the car’s “blank canvas” design comes in handy. Whoever is “driving” the Mini can customize the interior instantaneously to their liking, choosing different colors, graphics, and content to project onto the interior of the car. In a way, it reminds us of Nissan‘s Teatro for Dayz concept.
Adding to the theme of personalization, drivers can customize the ride via the centrally positioned circular instrument. An “Inspire Me” button takes things up a notch further and selects information that could be of interest to the driver. “For example, the Mini Vision Next 100 might suggest the Mini set-up configured for an artist the driver admires and whose exhibition they have recently visited. Or it could recommend a challenging, twisting route to the outskirts of town and switch to John Cooper Works performance mode.” Driving fun can still be had, BMW says, but it’s just one option. Switching to autonomous mode is as simple as moving the steering wheel into the open area between the driver and the front passenger seat.
Inside the cabin, look for sustainable materials such as recycled plastic and aluminum in the floor area, roof lining, and side panel trim. Recycled cellulose makes up the trim covering the lower section of the seat. You won’t find wood or leather, but you will notice knitted Alcantara on the seat covers.
BMW says future Minis will be available 24/7 to pick up their occupant and quickly adapt to his or her preferences. The car is also a party planner; if you tell it your plans for the day it can identify what’s involved and organize the whole excursion.
Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100
And you thought Rolls-Royce would never go electric. Turns out, BMW envisions a “high-performance electric drive” car that sits on a lightweight platform. Although customers already have a wide variety of design options to choose from in Rolls cars, future drivers will be able to create “unique bespoke masterpieces curated as a fingerprint of their owner.” The cabin makes use of Macassar wood, hand-twisted silk carpet, and soft silk upholstery.
Given that Rolls-Royces are typically “chauffeur” cars, autonomous driving is the focal point in this model. No steering wheel or driver’s seat is needed. Instead, occupants get a virtual assistant called Eleanor, named after the model who inspired the Spirit of Ecstasy. Like a fancy Siri, the assistant can be prompted via voice commands. It even learns an occupant’s favorite restaurants, route preferences, and other details to customize the ride experience. When you step out of the car, light projections create a virtual “red carpet.” A bit much? Maybe.
BMW Vision Next 100
In March, we first saw the BMW Vision 100 Next concept that previews what BMW wants to accomplish in the years following its 100-year anniversary. Now, BMW is providing more tidbits on its shape-shifting, autonomous saloon. Like we knew, the Vision 100 concept sports flexible body panels and two driving modes. BMW maintains that a true BMW is always focused on the driver, so it will supposedly be like a BMW should. “Boost” accommodates those times when drivers want to take control of the wheel, moving the seats and steering wheel to the driving position. “Ease” mode reconfigures the seats so passengers can face each other while the car drives itself. BMW says the cabin will also use more sustainable materials instead of typical wood and leather.