BMW has once again reinforced its intentions to put its iVision Future Interaction concept into production. The car will go on sale in 2018 and be badged as an i8 Roadster. Speaking at the 2016 Paris Motor Show, Member of the Board for Sales and Marketing, Dr Ian Robinson, repeated that BMW will add the i8 Roadster to its hybrid sports car range in 2018. The car was previewed at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, US, where it demonstrated new gesture control functionality and a sleek interior with a giant dash-wide-sized, 21-inch screen. The doorless, roofless i8 Roadster concept was first revealed at the 2012 Beijing Motor Show, and is purely to place focus on its new interior system, awkwardly entitled “BMW iVision Future Interaction.” The new tech relies heavily on cloud-based services and integrates Airtouch, the next step to BMW’s gesture control functionality and does away with all switchgear hardware.
BMW Airtouch: next generation gesture control
The gesture control features three sets of sensors across the length of the dash so the driver and passenger – now in more comfortable lounge-style seats – have individual touch points from which to control the long high-resolution display integrated sleekly above. Airtouch anticipates the driver’s intended selection from the gesturing position. The selection is then made from the soft button on the left of the steering wheel, illuminated in white. The passenger makes selections from an illuminated point to the right of their seat. Marcus Behrendt, Head of User Experience, says that the iVision concept essentially combines as many options of control as possible to give all customers multiple choices behind the wheel. In addition to the gesture control, the menu can also be scrolled through on the touch-sensitive centre arm rest, which replaces the scroll wheel in current models. Though the current gesture commands, seen in the 7 Series, haven’t been integrated, Behrendt says this is entirely possible and much of the development of this product will depend results from testing and on feedback from shows. This everyman approach might sound a bit supermarket-like, but safety is key and as a result, some services will only be available when the vehicle is in fully autonomous mode, such as taking a face-to-face call. Behrendt explains that with so many choices in the system, a hierarchy becomes arduous. The number of menus the driver needs to scroll through and loop back onto becomes broken. Instead, a new system is needed. This system needs to look more like a children’s toybox, from which items can be picked up, used and discarded more flexibly.
BMW’s iVision: tech highlights
The interior of the i8 Roadster also featured the nifty illuminated steering wheel to show when the car is in autonomous mode (blue lights) or when the driver is required to take the wheel (red lights). In manual mode, the dash’s wide console screen minimises to seven inches and displays less distracting information. The cluster instrumentation in front of the driver has also adopted a different 3D appearance. Though we saw less of this functionality in play, a short film showed us how BMW Connected will act as a bit of a personal assistant, reminding you to leave the house for appointments, offering route options to maximise driving pleasure and playing driving instructor by flagging on the heads-up display (HUD) the maximum speed at which to take a bend.
Cloud connectivity for BMWs of the future
The information displayed on the screen is pulled down from the cloud. Speaking at CES 2016, Dr Klaus Froehlich, Board Member for Research and Development at BMW, said “real-time data from the cloud opens up almost endless possibilities.” He didn’t, however, comment on how quickly these new services could be delivered. Ultimately, the current telecommunications infrastructure limits the progress of the connected car. Though self-driving cars are a few years away yet, even by BMW’s own admission, it reckons these iterations of man-machine interaction will make it into future production cars step-by-step. Although BMW was unable to specified more clearly when this technology would hit production, Froehlich says we’ll see more sometime in the ‘not-so-distant future’.