BMW turns 100 years old this week. Instead of celebrating with a giant cake shaped like a car, although that might be happening and we don’t know it, they’ve chosen to celebrate with the Vision Next 100 concept.
This is their idea of where cars might be when BMW is about ready to celebrate its second hundred years.
It looks like a car, but by today’s standards, the Vision Next 100 is futuristic and resembles something you’d see in a science fiction film, not on the streets.
It’s not just its looks that make this BMW different. The Vision Next 100 has what they’re calling Alive Geometry, which offers a choice of driver-controlled or autonomous operation.
Though the idea of fully autonomous cars is still a topic of debate today, there’s no one who will argue that they aren’t going to happen. Features have already trickled down to many production cars, so it’s a solid bet that it become the norm over the next 100 years.
This car still honors the idea of humans driving, what they call Boost mode, which may be an old-fashioned novelty in a century. The steering wheel and center console retract in self-driving mode, what they call Ease mode, and the seats and door trim merge. This lets the driver and front passenger turn to face each other like they’re sitting in the living room.
The interior is as high-tech as you’d expect with the information display going beyond what we see today. Instead of showing data in front of the driver only, information displays stretch into the periphery to provide more information than today’s cars.
There are also exterior indicators so other people can tell who is in control of the car. This includes lights in that signature BMW kidney grille, headlamps, and taillamps that change with the mode selected. They also give their car the power to communicate with pedestrians the same way we do when waving someone across the street.
They call this Companion. It doesn’t sprout hands or talk, but casts a green glow to let pedestrians know that it’s yielding to them and they can safely cross without worry of becoming a hood ornament.
The outside also shows off new materials including a fabric-like body. This lets the fenders stretch as the wheels turn, which keeps them covered and more aerodynamic for improved fuel efficiency.
And so the big question is – what kind of fuel?
BMW did not choose to reveal what kind of powertrain their future car will use. It could be gas. It could be electric. It could be a hybrid. This is a big piece of the automotive puzzle, so it is disappointing that BMW made no predictions on this front.
Still, the Vision Next 100 is a fantastic concept, and if any of us are still around in 100 years, there’s a good chance we’ll see some of these elements in production cars of the future.