I spent yesterday on a bleak ex-Phantom airbase near Munich. For seven hours I was locked in a super-intense technical briefing with BMW engineers.
The company was keen to brief us on a wide range of new projects under the umbrella title of ‘Connected Drive meets Efficient Dynamics’.
So extensive was the range of new ideas, it would be impossible to detail them here, but an awful lot of them involved the Apple iPhone (and BMW-created) applications.
In the future you’ll be offered Apps that deliver micro-navigation (so you can find your way from the car park to the airport check-in desk) and a Mini App that tracks and displays your ability to eek every possible mile out of your fuel tank.
The company is also planning an App that will tell a driver whether his trip is quicker by public transport and then detail the alternative journeys.
BMW is also working on a wide range of accident avoidance tech, including pedestrian avoidance, automatic avoidance of lateral collisions on motorway lanes and a system that can steer the car off a road and park it if the driver has a heart attack at the wheel.
There’s also an interesting new project called AMMULET, which sees children carrying a small transponder that can be detected by future BMWs, even when the child can’t be seen.
Prepare yourself for a new parking system that allows the driver to step out of the car and park it in, say, a narrow parking space, by remote key control. Future BMW keys might also double up as swipe charge cards to pay for railway tickets and open the doors of pre-booked hotel rooms.
However, I though you might like to see this sophisticated electronics demonstration mock-up. It was was used to show a new-generation iDrive controller that incorporates a finger-tip touch pad and the flat-screen instrument pack.
You might notice that the interior is very carefully covered and disguised, even though the iDrive and navigation worked. The 1-series steering was modified with thumbwheel controllers and the 1-series door card was hacked to fit.
On the outside I looked long and hard at the very finely finished skin around the A-pillars and bonnet. It’s not like any existing BMW. Note also, the sophisticated steel frame and serious processing power hidden inside.
My guess? This electronics mock-up was a glimpse of the next-generation 1-series.
I suspect this car, and its 3-series sistership, will be packed with much of the technology that was previewed yesterday.
What better way to make sure BMW distances itself from increasingly impressive mainstream machinery?