BMW’s 2011 Geneva Motor Show concept is called Vision ConnectedDrive, with the emphasis very much on the connection between vehicle and driver.
While the two-seat roadster’s exterior styling provides some indications of BMW's likely design direction (rather less likely are sliding doors a la the now classic BMW Z1, albeit horizontal not vertical), it is the car’s interior, cockpit equipment technology, and driver support/information systems that are really what it is about.
BMW divided its interior design into three categories: comfort, infotainment, and safety. For demonstration at the show, different color fiber-optic lighting signified the path taken by each.
The concept has a 3D head-up display (HUD) to obviate the need for the driver to refocus from viewing the road ahead. The HUD shows the real view with information about navigation commands and speed limits but overlaid with virtual information that highlights potential hazards and solutions, such as short alternative routes to circumvent local traffic problems.
But sometimes solutions create their own problems, and in the case of infotainment these may include too much information and unacceptably high driver mental workload.
The Vision ConnectedDrive system, though, will be capable of filtering out and prioritizing information, and the driver could also preprogram its capability to personal preferences. The instrument cluster is programmable with some information optically emphasized when necessary.
However, there is more to this information handling because the passenger also gets a display with Internet access. It is out of the driver’s field-of-view and allows the passenger also to analyze and assess information including navigation options. When satisfied that a particular alternative route is the preferred solution, it could be sent to the driver’s display.
The passenger information system may also cover such fine detail as interesting features of architecture in close proximity to the car. So, a little like a rally car, the Vision ConnectedDrive has a driver and navigator combo.
Some of the information sent to the car’s occupants is transmitted via sensors positioned in the head lamps and taillamps, which can observe traffic situations, road surface changes, etc.
BMW has not revealed details of a potential drive system for the concept or later developments of it, although a hybrid system based on the company’s current R&D work looks likely.
Aesthetic elements of the concept are certain to indicate the direction of future BMW models, particularly sports cars and those at the top end of the range. The concept continues BMW’s established signature roadster stance (the Z4 being the latest example) with long, relatively high hood line, cockpit set well back, and a short rear deck.
The use of double shell sliding doors (one section moving forward, the other rearward into the car's bodyshell), which can be left open as the car is driven, is very unusual in view of the accent on safety that has increased hugely since the Z1 appeared more than two decades ago. But all things are possible, so eventually it may prove not just to be a piece of fanciful retro motor show gimmickry. The concept does have very high sills, but thoroughly effective side-impact protection is one of the guiding principles of today’s safety ethic, and an open door is an open door!