BMW is celebrating its centenary this year, starting with the BMW Vision Next 100 concept car in March that demonstrated what a Bimmer of the distant future could look like. Today the company’s world tour arrived in London, and brought with it the debut of two intensely futuristic cars from a pair of famed British brands: the Rolls-Royce and Mini Vision Next 100 concepts.
Before we delve into any of the technical novelties of the concept Mini, we have to talk about this thing’s design. It’s impossible to miss the striking transparency of its front and spartan minimalism of its interior. Where other cars have instrument clusters, this Mini has a single bar, which accommodates just two components: the steering wheel, which can slide across between passengers, and that iconic round speedometer. A much larger circular arrangement is positioned where the engine would usually be — this is an all-electric vehicle, because BMW firmly believes that electric cars are the future of mobility — serving to provide information. The user interface of this car is completed with projections directly on the road in front of you. It’s got a playful, almost juvenile presentation with all the flashing lights and bright and happy colors, obviously targeting a younger audience.
The tagline for this concept is “Every Mini is my Mini,” and when you dig into the details of the car, you see why: it’s entirely about car-sharing. The idea is that the Mini Vision Next 100 could be called to your location with an app, arriving autonomously, ready for your use — no need to own one. The entire car adapts to whoever is currently renting it. The silver exterior acts as a projection screen, letting the driver change colors and patterns on the fly. Want a Mini in solid red? Covered in rainbows and unicorns? No problem, the theory goes. And once you have your Mini preferences set, they’ll be stored in the cloud and automatically restored to the Mini that recognizes you. Thus, says the car’s designer Anders Warming, the Mini that you take to the airport in London is the same Mini that you’ll take from the airport in New York.
The AI assistant that was called “the Companion” in the BMW Vision Next 100 concept is known as “the Cooperizer” here, a play on the Mini Cooper name. “On the move, the driver can influence the Cooperizer’s decision-making, as the rotary controls allow adjustments to the interior ambience and driving mode,” BMW says. A button on the Cooperizer labeled “Inspire Me” automatically configures the car to provide the driver with “potential sources of inspiration.” For instance, it could mimic a point of interest you recently visited — an art exhibition, BMW suggests — or go into a high-performance mode so you can have fun on a twisty road.
It's all a little far-out, but then again, it kind of isn’t: BMW (and the auto industry at large) have started taking car sharing very, very seriously. The company recently launched its ReachNow service in Seattle, with plans to expand rapidly to additional markets. It’s probably no surprise that ReachNow’s inventory includes Mini Coopers.
The Mini Vision Next 100, along with its Rolls-Royce counterpart, will be on display at the Roundhouse in London through June 26th.