BMW i Vision Future InteractionBMW is dipping its corporate toe into the water with touchscreens on the current 7 Series – but is already looking beyond touchscreen with its new i Vision Future Interaction concept at CES 2016.

This doorless concept car, based on last year’s i8 Spyder Concept, suggests touchscreens will be a single-generation thing for BMW: it instead uses AirTouch, where users control an infotainment screen using gestures.

It’s the next step on from the Gesture Control also found in the current 7 Series, BMW Group design director Adrian van Hooydonk told us. “Touchscreen are for today; this is what we’ll see tomorrow.”

BMW is the first car company to utilise gesture control in this way, and it’s all because the 21-inch panoramic new screen in the i Vision concept is so large.

“Screens are getting bigger and bigger; we found that once you get over a certain size, you have to move them away from the passengers to be easy to use.” That’s away and out of reach of passengers: hence AirTouch.

Other car makers whose screens are getting ever-larger will be looking on with interest: is this BMW setting a trend at CES 2016?

Not that it means BMW touchsreens will stall with the 7 Series, added van Hooydonk. “We will roll them out in the next few years.” It’s just that the i Vision Future Interaction suggests it’s not tech that’s long for BMW…

Asymmetric interior

BMW i Vision Future Interaction

The i Vision concept also has a new interior – clearly modelled on the i8, said van Hooydonk, but optimised to take advantage of another concept feature: highly automated driving.

BMW insists owners will still be able to drive themselves: this isn’t a ‘driverless BMW’. But where relevant, self-driving autonomy will be offered – and it’s with this in mind that the interior has been reconfigured.

Seats are now asymmetric so the driver can lean into the passenger (or the infotainment screen); almost every button has been removed from the interior; even the steering wheel slides into the dash when in piloted drive mode.

The steering will also glow blue when it’s driving itself: come to the end of the autonomous stretch of road and it starts glowing red (and slides back to the driver’s hands).

The intention is to have a driver-focused interior that can be reconfigured into a more open-plan setup where desirable.

“It’s not an autonomous cell,” said van Hooydonk; “We want the customer to decide how it’s set up according to their mood.”

BMW used to be known as ‘the ultimate driving machine’ and, as van Hooydonk stressed to us, “we still want to please the driver”. Petrolheads, relax. You’ll still enjoy the autonomous BMW of tomorrow.