Looking ahead to its second century, BMW this week completed the vision for its four groups: BMW, BMW Motorrad (motorcycles), Mini, and Rolls-Royce. Tuesday in Santa Monica, CA, it was BMW Motorrad’s turn, and it showed a conceptual bike called the Vision Next 100 that keeps itself upright while driving or standing.
While the BMW concept motorcycle of the future isn’t self driving, it comes close. It helps the rider stay upright and constantly adjusts to road conditions. It’s so safe, BMW says, the rider doesn’t need a helmet or protective clothing.
When the driver turns the handlebar, the frame itself flexes and changes shape, allowing the bike to go left or right. It takes more effort to turn the bike at higher speeds, improving stability. With the Flexframe (BMW’s term), there is also no suspension — no springs, no shock absorbers, no swingarm. Instead, the two wheels absorb the bumps. (BMW’s future vision apparently envisions the end to potholes.)
A technology suite of stability control, traction control, and anti-lock brakes mean the bike should stay up at all times. It won’t, BMW believes, ever fall over. That makes this an ideal bike for beginning riders and adds a measure of safety for long-term riders.
The powerplant has the look of BMW’s classic opposed-cylinder design, but it will be some non-polluting, zero-emissions technology.
The bike won’t tip over. It won’t crash. So there’s no need for a helmet or protective leathers (in theory). The rider will wear special gear, a sleek body suit (so long as the rider inside is sleek), and a data-display visor. BMW calls it the Digital Companion. Different data appears when the driver looks and looks down; information shuts off completely when the driver looks straight ahead.
What can the Digital Companion do? Suggest ideal lines and banking angles going through a turn, or advise of road hazards ahead. If the rider doesn’t position the bike properly, the display suggests a better angle, and if the rider fails to respond, the bike corrects itself.
Looking upward brings a rear view camera into play. The bike has no instrument panel to speak of other than a red throttle grip on the right.
The rider’s gear warms or cools the rider. The flexible, banded suit provides support for the body for long or grueling rides. Navigation instructions are transmitted as vibrations to the left or right arm, plus on the smart visor.
According to BMW, “The BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100 stands for the ultimate riding experience. Liberated from the need to wear a helmet and protective clothing, the rider is able to enjoy the forces. Acceleration, wind, and nature as in touch with the surrounding world, savoring every moment. The design of the BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100 represents the essence of the motorcycle: the perfect synthesis between human and machine. Every detail is of the highest quality and the design incorporates all the most striking visual aspects of BMW Motorrad bikes across the ages.”
As a group, the BMW Vision Next 100 vehicles embrace zero emissions and alternative energy: electric vehicles for sure, possibly hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (that generate electricity). Although the quartet of concepts has been rolled out beginning in early 2016, they seem to have anticipated Germany’s legislative push to end internal combustion-engine vehicles by 2030.
The BMW Vision Next 100 Bimmer, the concept representing the core brand, features a shape-shifting body and flexible skin sections. Hundreds of “Alive Geomgetry” triangles on the body can pop up and turn red. The pop-ups might indicate a road hazard, the path through a corner, or where you turn on your route. Fabric panels cover the wheels to improve aerodynamics, borrowing from BMW’s 2008 GINA (“Geometry and functions In ‘N’ Adaptations”).
This is the concept BMW most certain to have a steering wheel into the future. In Boost mode, the driver drives, aided by driver assists to make sure the car stays in lane and at a safe following distance. The entire windshield would be an information display. In Ease mode, the steering wheels retracts into the dash. The driver and passenger seats angle slightly toward each other for better conversation.
BMW has shaped Mini since 1994 and shares some common designs and components, such as the front-drive chassis also found on the BMW X1. This future Mini could well be a shared-ownership vehicle or an on-demand rental. Driver/renters would maintain a profile in the cloud that adjusts his/her preferences to the current vehicle, making the current Mini be “my Mini.”
The Mini Vision Next 100 Concept would be autonomous-drive and it would be battery powered. The roof and doors can display colors and messages. Although it’s autonomous, there would be a steering wheel and it could be removed and reinstalled to switch from right- to left-hand drive.
In the Rolls-Royce Vision 100 concept, the spacious back seat is the only seat, or sofa. The car is fully automated: no steering wheel, no instrument panel. The motorcar will interact via the web to book hotels, suggest preferred routes, maybe even arrange tickets to “Hamilton.”
Fitted luggage slides out of custom holders just aft of the shrouded front wheels. A furled umbrella pulls from the side of the body when the upswinging doors are raised.
Despite the single seat, the 103EX (this one has a name) measures almost 20 feet bow to stern. Propulsion would be zero-emissions, most likely electric.