BMW is once again a star draw at the Consumer Electronics Show. This year, its CES 2016 showcase is all about how we’ll interact with the technology fitted to the cars of tomorrow.
At the world’s biggest tech show, it showed us how.
BMW i Vision Future Interaction
The centrepiece of BMW at CES 2016 is its i Vision Future Interaction show car. This concept carries the ideas its tech boffins have been working on, revealing what the dashboard of the future may look like – and how we’ll use it.
BMW i8 Concept Spyder
OK, the i Vision Future Interaction isn’t an all-new car. It’s a tech-packed version of BMW’s open-top i8 Concept Spyder (itself coming soon, surely?). The stuff within is new, though…
The multi-screen BMW
The first thing you need to know is the number of displays: there are three. The driver’s centrepiece is the Head-Up Display, supported by a snazzy 3D instrument pack below. But the most striking screen…
A panoramic vision
…is the new 21-inch panorama display, which stretches across the passenger-side dashboard. It’s a stunning widescreen spectacle.
The panorama display is 110mm high and has multiple uses, both for driver and passenger. Some of this is dependent on which driving mode is selected – yes, the i Vision Future Interaction is an autonomous BMW concept, too.
BMW’s multi-mode driving future
BMW envisages three driving modes in the future. ‘Pure Drive’ is, like today’s BMWs, all down to the driver. ‘Assist’ gives autonomous support and ‘Auto Mode’ takes over completely. Significantly, BMW says such autonomous driving is coming on its cars very soon to approved stretches of road.
Drive mode guide
When it’s in Auto Mode, the BMW’s steering wheel lights up blue. When the car leaves an approved section of road, it turns to red: the driver must take over. If they don’t? The car comes gently to a halt at the side of the road.
Content to suit the mode
The panorama screen does different things depending on driving mode. In Full Auto Mode? It will then, say, switch from an audio phone call to a widescreen video call.
i8 Spyder vision: a web on wheels
Another advantage of being in Full Auto mode is that it unlocks full web access, emails and audiovisual tech – stream a movie to your BMW and watch it in glorious 21-inch widescreen HD. That’ll make the commute a bit easier.
Living room on wheels
To make the most of this autonomy, BMW reconfigures the i8 Vision Future Interaction’s interior in Full Auto mode. The steering wheel moves forward out the way, seats reprofile so the driver can turn and watch the panorama screen; even the headrest has been tailored.
Control via AirTouch
Such tech sounds fine, but how do you control it? BMW doesn’t like touchscreens – that’s why it’s been able to push the panorama screen forward for ideal viewing. Luckily, it’s invented a touch-style way of using it, called AirTouch. No fiddly interfaces here; it’s just like Minority Report.
AirTouch: virtual touchscreen
With AirTouch, sensors in the dash let you scroll sideways through the screen with swipe motions, with icon options popping up as tiles. An ‘air-touch’ gesture is sufficient to choose and select what you want.
AirTouch: does it work?
The big question: is it a load of hot air? At CES 2016, visitors are able to get hands-on with it to decide if they really are like Tom Cruise…
Real touch backup…
Don’t like the idea of this air-gesture stuff? A halfway-house is scrolling using gestures but making selections via a physical button on the steering wheel or passenger-side door sill. And if you’re a traditionalist, a touch-sensitive surface on the leather seats (yes, really) lets you go old school.
BMW’s second CES 2016 i8 showcar
The i Vision Future Interaction isn’t the only concept i8 BMW has at CES 2016. Enter the i8 Mirrorless. It’s an i8. Without mirrors.
BMW i8 Mirrorless
Instead of door mirrors, this i8 has two rear-facing cameras made from Gorilla Glass and housed in aero-tuned pods. A third camera is mounted in the rear screen.
Images from the three cameras are merged into a high-res widescreen display, sitting where the interior rear-view mirror normally resides. It misses nothing, there are no blind spots and it doesn’t need to be adjusted for individual drivers.
Smart rear-view screen
It’s a smart screen too. If the driver indicates to move into a new lane and it detects a fast-approaching car in the ‘blind spot’, a yellow warning icon flashes. The system also auto-swivels in sharp city corners for an even wider view.
BMW’s cycle-friendly mirror
It will also pick up cyclists and warn if they’re approaching from the rear. Good for cyclist vs. motorist harmony in Central London, then.
‘Back seat driver’
Passengers will love the BMW i8 Mirrorless’ tech, too. They get a rearward view just as good as the driver. The interior’s also quieter for them; no external mirrors means less wind noise (and better fuel economy).
Mirrorless tech: coming soon?
Current legislation forbids cars without external rear-view mirrors. BMW has a halfway-house that may be coming soon, though: the i3 Extended Rearview Mirror, which mixes both old and new.
Rear-view mirror ‘plus’
A camera in the roof overlays images onto the regular rear-view mirror. This allows the wider-screen view and also includes the warning alerts of the i8 Mirrorless. It’s coming soon as an option to a BMW near you, we hear…
BMW and the Internet of Things
BMW’s future tech isn’t all fancy screens and movie-style gestures. At CES 2016, it’s showcasing the technology powering it. The BMW of tomorrow will be fully connected to other devices as a component in the so-called ‘Internet of Things’.
BMW Connected: the ultimate digital assistant
A key component in owning tomorrow’s BMW will be using BMW Connected. This integrates the car more fully into the owner’s life, as part of a ‘total mobility solution’. Huh? It means the car will digitally merge into your life, rather than being a disconnected box on wheels.
Digital car component?
Can’t get your head around it? Don’t worry. It’s all very new and forward-looking, and BMW admits this approach to mobility is radical and ‘an industry first’. As with smartphones, we’ll get there.
The self-learning BMW
Part of BMW Connected’s functionality is learning your regular journeys and thus alerting you if there’s traffic en route. It will know if there’s traffic on your way to work, for example. It may even send an alert to your smartwatch to set off earlier…
The engine: Open Mobility Cloud
Powering BMW Connected is the Open Mobility Cloud. This has the necessary ‘learning capability’ and lets BMW Connected integrate with other third-party apps and, significantly, other networked systems. Hence it being a complete ‘smart digital mobility assistant’.
How the BMW Internet of Things car will work
What sort of things will this smart connected tech allow BMWs to do? Link with a smart mirror in your house for one, which it calls Mobility Mirror. As you check your hair and tie in the morning, this networked mirror will also show diary dates, traffic updates and the state of charge of your BMW i3 parked outside.
If you’ve got your smart coffee machine hooked up to the Open Mobility Cloud, turning it on will automatically start pre-heating your i3’s cabin.
Picking up your i3 key will trigger it to autonomously drive out your garage and be sitting outside your house waiting for you.
Watch the valet
You can even watch the i3 auto-park if you want: BMW Connected will show you the view from the car’s cameras on your smartphone, smartwatch or, yes, the Mobility Mirror.
Virtual security guard
This has added functionality. If the car senses someone has driven it, BMW Connected will automatically feed the view from the cameras to the driver’s smartphone. They’ll get popup alerts if the car is hit, too; BMW calls it Bumper Detect.
Heat your home from your car
You can control things in the home from the car as well. Samsung’s invented a ‘Smart Things’ app that hooks up smart home functions, which means you can turn on the heating or check the doors are locked from your iDrive screen as you drive.
It’s not all cars
It’s not only cars that are getting smart. BMW makes around 120,000 motorcycles a year and, at CES 2016, it has demonstrated world-first laser lights for bikes.
Twice-as-bright motorcycle lights
Fitted to a BMW K 1600 GTL concept machine, BMW’s motorcycle laser lights are twice as good as normal lights, with a range of more than half a kilometre.
Head-up displays for riders
BMW launched Europe’s first head-up display in 2003. Now it’s coming to bikes, as previewed by the head-up display helmet. This displays data in front of the rider’s eyes, so they no longer have to look down at the instruments.
Fully programmable, display options include sat nav, tyre pressures, speed and fuel level. Future vehicle-to-vehicle communication will also allow incidents on the road ahead to be flashed up – a huge safety boon for riders.
Find your friends
Motorcyclists who like going on ride-outs will love this possible tech: other riders could be visualised on the head-up display, so you can see where your mates are even if you can’t ‘see’ them…
Motorcycle head-up display: coming soon
BMW’s designed the system to be fitted to any helmet. All it needs are two batteries, which run for five hours between charges. Tantalisingly, it’ll be developed to production level “within the next few years”.
BMW even wants to make streetlights smarter. They’re potentially a ready-made EV recharging infrastructure: all you need is a charge plug on each lamp. Enter BMW Light & Charge…
The streetlamp of the future
These modular LED lights can replace normal streetlamps and come fitted with a standardised EV charge connector. They’re contactless: use a chargepoint card or, naturally, a smartphone app.
Smartlamps: coming soon near you?
BMW will carry out trials in Oxford, Munich and Los Angeles with the new streetlight charge point system. London and Berlin decision-makers have also expressed an interest in trying it.
Cool new BMW tech you can buy today
The CES 2016 showcase is all well and good, but can you actually buy any of this today? Well, sort of: BMW also had its new 7 Series on show, which includes things like Gesture Control and rear-seat BMW Touch Command.
BMW Gesture Control is here
Gesture Control is a production first: swipe, point and rotate hand movements are picked up by a 3D sensor in the dash so you can accept phone calls or turn up the stereo without touching the dash.
BMW even has its own tablet computer in the back of the new 7 Series, incorporating BMW Touch Command to adjust air con, seats and lights, plus surf the net and play video games. All this is today, but it sounds like there’s plenty more coming tomorrow, too…