The BMW Vision iNext is a self-driving technology powerhouse
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A week ago we waxed lyrical about how the motoring world is on a huge self-driving EV buzz — Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volvo, and Renault all in quick succession firing off their take on what the next big thing in tech is going to be.
As important as any of those though is this thing; the BMW Vision iNext.
Incredibly goofy name, I'm sure you'll agree. But that's just BMW's way of emphasizing that this is both a concept vehicle as well as a sneak peek on the technologies they've been working on behind the scenes for their next generation of production cars.
The iNext is an electric crossover that aims to meet in the middle between today's electric cars, and the aforementioned concepts that are more akin to office spaces and beds on wheels.
“Personal mobility is set to experience significant change,” says BMW AG Development board member Klaus Fröhlich.
“The possibilities opened up by autonomous driving and ever-expanding connectivity enable a whole new range of experiences and ways of shaping a journey.
"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."
The iNext follows traditional SUV proportions, but comes with a huge panoramic glass roof and an interior that does its best to evoke the personality of an airy living room.
There's lots of warm tones and open-pore wood surfaces. The transmission tunnel is effectively non-existent, making things exceptionally open for those in the front seats.
The only 'screens' in the iNext are those in front of the driver. That might sound a little tame in today's tech-loving world, but in order to supposedly "preserve the homely character" of the iNext's rear seating ("shy tech", as BMW calls it) screens have instead been replaced with projectors.
Rear passengers can turn any surface into a display via the iNext's pinpoint 3D motion sensors. Spiffy stuff, and something that would be interesting to witness practical testing of.
Like the self-driving cars of the probable immediate future, the iNext offers drivers the ability to either take the controls themselves ("Boost" mode) or let the car's bevy of sensors do the driving for them ("Ease" mode).
The bulk of that self-driving technology lies in the iNext's solid front 'twin kidney' grills. BMW call it the car's 'Intelligence Panel'.
Things like power-train details, range figures, or charge times are all absent from BMW's releases on the iNext. But this is nonetheless an important concept.
Namely because it's not really a concept, quite.
BMW have said that, in one way or another, the iNext will go on sale to the EV market by 2021 — production to take place at the BMW Dingolfing Plant in Germany.
Expect that a few of the 'cutting edge' fixtures above probably won't survive the journey to production, but conversely don't be surprised if they do.
Remember, the i3 and i8 were wild concept cars once upon a time, too. And their production counterparts look no different.