BMW Concept Advances Toward Autonomous Driving

At the heart of the conceptual interior fitted to the i Vision Future Interaction is BMW’s next-generation head-up display technology. The heavily reconfigured unit is supported by a contemporary 3-D digital instrument display.

Greg Kable

January 5, 2016

3 Min Read
Concept features outsized touchscreen steeringwheel controls advanced HUD
Concept features outsized touchscreen, steering-wheel controls, advanced HUD.

LAS VEGAS – BMW reveals an advanced new interior and associated technologies it is developing for future production models on a new concept car called the i Vision Future Interaction Tuesday at CES 2016 here.

Based on a doorless version of the i8 roadster concept first revealed in 2012, the rakish 2-seater showcases several newly developed interactive information displays, an advanced Air Touch gesture-control system, autonomous-driving innovations, electronic rearview mirrors and contemporary Internet features among other interior innovations unveiled by the German automaker’s R&D chief Klaus Froehlich.

At the heart of the conceptual interior fitted to the i Vision Future Interaction is BMW’s next-generation head-up display technology. The heavily reconfigured unit, which projects information relating to speed, speed limits and navigation instructions on the windshield within the driver’s field of vision, boasts a much higher resolution than the unit available on selected BMW models today, giving it greater clarity and definition.

The new head-up display is supported by a contemporary 3-D digital instrument display positioned behind a newly styled multifunction steering wheel. The ultra-high-definition monitor, which is likely to enter production by the end of the decade, displays information in what BMW describes as an autostereoscoptic process, with the depth of field adjusting to provide the best possible resolution in variable light.

Along with the usual speed, consumption and range readouts, the driver receives information about cars on the road ahead as well as oncoming traffic not yet in the field of vision. BMW claims this innovation allows the driver to better respond to varying conditions, especially when traveling in autonomous mode, by issuing a warning sound giving the driver up to seven seconds to take command when a potential accident is detected.

The driver can select between three drive modes – pure drive, assist and auto – via a control embedded in the left-hand spoke of the steering wheel. Pure drive provides optimum performance, assist relies heavily on networking solutions to provide the fastest journey time based on real-time traffic information and auto sees the BMW i8 roadster concept take control itself, independently accelerating, braking and steering without the driver having to intervene. In the latter mode, the steering wheel lights up in a blue hue, providing a visual cue of the autonomous control. If the car leaves its approved lane, a red light signals the driver to take control.

The most striking display may be a central panorama unit extending across the top the dashboard from the center console. Some 15.7 ins. (40 cm) high and almost 10.2 ins. (26 cm) wide, the large monitor boasts a screen 21 ins. (53 cm) diagonally measured. Although seemingly obstructive, BMW claims the new display is no higher than the 8.8-in. (22.3-cm) screen used by the existing i8 coupe.

Upon entering the i8 roadster concept, the panorama unit displays content sourced from BMW’s Open Mobility Cloud via a wireless data connection. The information shown varies depending on the drive mode that is chosen, allowing, for example, video phone calls, but only in the auto (autonomous) driving mode.

A further development is Air Touch. This new human-machine interface provides gesture control for all communication, information and entertainment functions of the panorama display unit, allowing it to be used like a touchscreen without the need to actually touch it.

Sensors used to control Air Touch are installed in the dashboard. They respond to various hand movements, including a so-called push gesture, which allows occupants to activate icons on the large central display. A second option for carrying out commands is located on the right-hand spoke of the steering wheels. It illuminates when a menu or icon can be activated. A similar button for the passenger is located on the door panel.

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