The autonomous electric crossover concept both represents the broad direction in which the Bavarian automaker is headed moving forward, and directly previews a production model to follow.
Designing the Future
The show car cuts a futuristic silhouette, rendered in copper with suitably conceptual, oversized 24-inch wheels. Blue accents hint at the electrified powertrain, visual carbon fiber its lightweight construction, and with no internal-combustion engine to keep cool, the big merged twin-kidney grille is blanked out, housing only sensors for the vehicle’s self-driving capabilities.
“BMW i exists to generate creative, pioneering ideas which transform the way we think about mobility,” said design chief Adrian van Hooydonk. “The BMW Vision iNEXT marks another next big step on that journey of transformation, showing how more intelligent vehicles can make our lives easier and more beautiful.”
A big panoramic glass roof lets the sunshine into the interior that’s designed to look and feel as much like a living room as it does a conventional automobile’s cabin space. Inside it’s all warm earth tones, with open-pore wood and jacquard cloth upholstery. The big glass monitors typical of such concepts are noticeably absent, replaced by projectors that can turn any surface into a display, controlled by pinpoint three-dimensional motion sensors.
“The possibilities opened up by autonomous driving and ever-expanding connectivity enable a whole new range of experiences and ways of shaping a journey,” adds R&D boss Klaus Fröhlich. “With this in mind, we have designed the all-electric BMW Vision iNEXT as a mobile environment that enhances quality of life, a new ‘Favourite Space’ in which we can be ourselves and relax. Indeed, all of BMW’s endeavours will continue to revolve around people – and their needs and desires when it comes to mobility – in the future.”
Drive or Be Driven
The concept’s designed to work (at least theoretically) either in fully autonomous “Ease” mode or in driver-operated “Boost” mode, with the steering wheel and controls retracting out of the way when not in use. That (along with the self-driving capabilities) likely means entirely drive-by-wire controls, with no direct mechanical link between driver and machine. But the Bavarian automaker hasn’t released any technical details as to what actually powers the thing.
What it has said, though, is that the Vision iNEXT will (in some form or another) be put into production at its Dingolfing plant – where it already builds over a third of a million vehicles every year – starting in 2021. We can expect some changes to be made on the road from showpiece to showroom. But by and large, what you see here is more or less what we’ll be seeing on the street three years from now.