Future VISION: your car will soon be your 'digital chauffeur, constant companion'
Munich: Celebrating 100 years of BMW
Published 09/03/2016 | 02:30
It may have been the celebration of a century of BMW (from airlines to motorcycles to cars) but they weren't dwelling for long on past achievements.
I've never seen a birthday party talk so much about the future while marking the beginning, in Munich, on March 7, 1916.
Yes there were a few lovely historic cars on display and we had old Minis buzz around a massive arena at the Olympic Village later.
But really everyone wanted to know, see and talk about the concept car that points to the next 100 years.
Three more 'visions' are to follow but the VISION 100 coupe with hidden wheels and upward-opening doors set the tone for the future.
It is designed to show what might be possible for the BMW brand in the years ahead.
They are developing the other three to focus on what their brand - MINI, Rolls Royce and Motorrad (motor bikes) - will represent down the line.
They say customisation will be so varied with the MINI concept/projection that few will be alike. They will also have a 'vision' for Rolls Royce - the theme will be Grand Sanctuary. That will be in June.
And in October they will have a motorcycle with the theme of 'The Great Escape'
But the BMW VISION 100 is the one getting all the attention this week. I got up close and personal with it and its designer, Adrian van Hooydonk, pictured with me, above.
It is conceived against a backdrop of potential massive change where presses that punch out hundreds of steel parts may well become obsolete. Technologies such as quick manufacturing and four dimensional printing will produce components and objects instead.
Add in the likelihood, the company says, of most cars being 'completely self-driving' and the extent of the revolution emerges. In the case of the VISION you tell the car what to do; you communicate with it and it manages modes such as 'Alive Geometry', 'Boost' and 'Ease' so that the cabin changes to suit the travel. For example 'Boost' helps choose the best driving line, steering point and speed.
Mr van Hooydonk told me there will be no wood or leather in it. The cabin is designed so the steering wheel and central console can retract in 'Ease' mode; the headrests can turn to the side and you can end up with the driver and front passenger seats turning towards each other.
The entire windscreen has all the information in front of your eyes, so there is little dashboard distraction - if you are driving at all. Information and images come up and graphics highlight what lies ahead.
Cars will be equipped to 'see' around the corner to avoid hazards. But BMW were reluctant to let us see around the corner on their plans; there was no clear answer on what would power these concepts, for example.
However, Harald Kruger, chairman of the BMW board, was prepared to venture: "Our cars will soon be our digital chauffeur and constant companion."
But when that happens is open to conjecture. Elements of the VISION could be in use over the coming years but they are looking a long way ahead before all elements come together.
And so to the present.
Details about a lot of things were scant at the press conference. Most questions about the present or near-future were referred to next week's annual report and strategy press conference.
They didn't really want to talk much, for example, about the threat from Google and Apple who are developing self-drive cars. Or sales of electric vehicles. Or . . . well a lot really.
So we'll know more next week, hopefully. Next week? Against 100 years of looking back and forward it's only the blink of an eye.