What next for the driving experience?
It's a dark day in the future and your car is enveloped in thick fog as it approaches a country crossroads, with oncoming vehicles from left and right. Fear not, technology is on your side.
For the driver of tomorrow, the way-ahead will be as clear as the highest-definition digital imagery, mapped out across the entire windshield to bring clarity not only to the fog-shrouded road ahead but to the traffic arriving from beyond the normal field of human vision.
This is the driver experience afforded by BMW's Head-Up Display, a central feature of the BMW VISION NEXT 100 series of how our future lives will be behind the wheel – if, that is, you choose to be driving yourself.
The Head-Up display works in combination with Alive Geometry, a coordinated display of small triangles that extend across the surface of the vehicle's dashboard like a flock of birds in controlled flight, which makes the driver aware of potential dangers from other objects, including those not yet visible with the naked eye.
Much has been said about the impending arrival of driverless cars as estabished manufacturers have been joined by global internet giants in focusing on tomorrow's mobility solutions. The day that vehicles can propel themselves along is almost upon us. BMW Group is among those leading the transition. Research engineer Michael Aeberhard runs the BMW Group division behind its prototype 5 Series. In contrast to some other autonomous vehicle projects, the BMW car does not have conspicuous sensors bolted on to its exterior, and, Aeberhard says, the emphasis is to make it look as much like a normal 5 Series model as possible.
BMW's first highly automated car, when the driver will be able to do something other than monitor the system, is expected to be available sometime after 2020.
In China, BMW Group has teamed up with digital giant Baidu to create a unit dedicated to developing automated cars as public transport. Baidu's two prototype BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo driverless vehicles are currently being tested on roads north of Beijing, with plans to develop and build more in the future.
But the German manufacturer is not planning on letting computers have all the fun. Its BMW VISION NEXT 100 project incorporates the concept of 'Boost' mode, where nothing gets in the way of the joy of driving.
In Boost mode, intelligent sensors and rich data enable the driver to remain focused on the road. The Head-Up Display can track the perfect driving line, ideal speed and optimum turning point. The Alive Geometry will help monitor external factors, and ensure safety remains of paramount importance.
For more straight-forward or traffic-heavy drives, there is the option of 'Ease' mode: The steering wheel and central console retract, headrests readjust and seats and door panels merge to form a single unit. The car, in effect, becomes a living room.
This is not space age stuff imagined for the next century, assures BMW Group's Design Director, Adrian van Hooydonk; it is really a vision for the next 15 years-or-so.