At a celebration in Munich today that marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of Bayerische Motoren Werke, BMW officials not only took a moment to look back but also shared their vision for the company’s next 100 years. This came in the form, of course, of a concept car that company leaders have dubbed “BMW VISION NEXT 100.” It’s a concept that strives to honor the legacy of a century of great cars – including the original 1936 BMW 328, the gorgeous 1956 BMW 507, the groundbreaking BMW 2002, and the futuristic BMW i8 – while providing a clear view of the future for the brand.
The BMW VISION NEXT 100 is a design and technology exercise as much as an engineering one, but it begins with a focus on the changing ways in which people will driving in the coming years. As Adrian van Hooydonk, Head of BMW Group Design said: “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.” The four key principles that serve as a foundation for the concept are that BMW is always driver focused, future technology will be easy to use and adapt as it learns, new materials will change the way cars are built, and emotion will always be a part of the driving experience.
BMW’s concept starts with a focus on the driver, offering two modes of operation: Boost mode in which the driver is in control, and Ease mode where the vehicle takes over. The interior itself is spacious and comfortable, and when in Boost mode the driver’s seat and steering wheel change position, and the center console shifts to orient toward the driver. There are no displays in the dashboard of the VISION NEXT 100 as BMW envisions the entire windshield will become an organic LED display, building on current heads-up display technology.
In Ease mode the interior of the car transforms completely. As the automated technologies in the car take over the driving functions, the steering wheel retracts and seats turn inward making it easier for the driver and passengers to interact. The windshield display can now be used to show personalized content like entertainment or other information like email, telecommunications and news.
Channeling Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek, the VISION NEXT 100 features a technology BMW calls “The Companion.” It is symbolized by a structure on the dash that lays flat when the car is in Boost Mode, but when the car is in Ease Mode, it rises to interface with the windshield. In addition to offering advice to the driver, The Companion controls lighting that can signal to other drivers and pedestrians that the car is in autonomous mode and by changing colors indicate what the car intends to do.
The exterior of the BMW VISION NEXT 100 is immediately recognizable as a BMW, with its trademark kidney grille. It also has a powerful, athletic stance thanks to the four large wheels being pushed way out to the corners. Aerodynamic efficiency is optimized by BMW’s Alive Technology. Body parts and panels move as the car accelerates and turns. An example of this is the covers over the wheels which move like a flexible as the wheels turn helping reduce drag.
While the VISION NEXT 100 is a fantastic exercise, BMW will be doing much more throughout the year to celebrate its hundredth anniversary. There will be exhibits, enthusiast gatherings, and other events including a homecoming-style festival in Munich September 9 through 11 this year. More information about this and other events can be found at bmw-festival.com.