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Car and Driver: More Details of the BMW Vision Next 100 Concept

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BMW-Vision-Next-100-Karim-Habib
-When BMW birthed a copper-toned autonomous baby during its 100th anniversary party last month, we hadn’t spent enough time with this audacious concept car. We’ve since learned more about it, so allow us to share additional details of the company’s Vision Next 100 Concept as well as some insight from BMW chief designer Karim Habib, who helped craft it.

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Flexing Fenders

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Lots of cars evoke muscularity, and yet metal bodies are static. This BMW has what ought to be named Active Bicep Control, in that the fenders stretch like tight skin over all four wheels. A complicated mess of rods and actuators slides the orange fender extension outward like a telescoping lens, moving the diamond-shaped cutouts fixed to the surface along with it. Ideally, BMW would build the entire assembly—steering, fender, actuators, magic sauce—as a single unit through additive manufacturing (also known as 3-D printing). The rear fenders would also flex to provide rear-wheel steering, although they’re not operable on this car.

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BMW could have avoided this complexity by mounting the front wheels further inboard and running standard skirts over them. That would have solved the drag problem but ruined the car’s wide stance, and handling—should the concept ever trudge over 5 mph—would have suffered. In any case, these fenders are both trippy and functional, or could be if manufacturing techniques catch up with BMW’s dreams.

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Vertical Kidneys

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The bucktooth kidney grilles, when combined with the low-riding concept’s slit-like headlights and brown paint, make this BMW a sort of robotic woodchuck. Or maybe that’s just us. But those tall nostrils do serve a purpose. As with so many electric vehicles, the grilles don’t inhale air but are crammed with as many radar, laser, and video cameras as possible.

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Mounting them low helps them read the small obstacles that today’s automated cars have trouble seeing. The grilles also changes colors from white (“Ease” mode, indicating to pedestrians that the car is driving itself) to red (“Boost” mode, or watch-the-hell-out, that’s a BMW driver behind the wheel). Lastly, the twin grilles are a tribute to some of BMW’s earliest models, such as the 1933 303, the very first car to sport them.

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“Almost Vegan” Interior

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That’s how Habib describes the interior materials, none of which relate to Dakota leather, Sensatec leatherette, or any trim stitched to BMW’s production models. Instead, there are synthetic microsuede, real cashmere wool, and various recyclable plastics. The seats are fixed to the car’s frame, but we’re told the cushions have a sofa-like give, allowing occupants to lean and slouch over when they don’t feel like watching the road ahead. The headrests swivel a few degrees to facilitate such movements.

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Drives Into Blind Turns

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The Vision Next 100 Concept doesn’t display anything on the dashboard, aside from those “Alive Geometry” fluttering triangles we’ve previously described. Other automakers have envisioned the windshield as a giant head-up display, including the use of augmented reality to highlight buildings, people, and other real-life objects in real time. But the one HUD feature we love on this BMW is the ability for an autonomous car to recommend racing lines on public roads.

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Since future cars and roads will be connected to each other, it could be absolutely safe to dive into the opposing lane on a blind corner, hit the apex, and do this five more consecutive times before an alert flashes on the windshield that a tour bus is approaching in 500 feet. That’s the idea here. Additionally, the car will also treat these roads like a game, allowing the driver to compare his skills against the car’s ideal path and speed for the chosen road. This is the sort of manual override future we can fully support.

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