BMW celebrates its century with a blizzard of PR bafflegab
They got a little mixed up with the concepts of ends and means though. BMW has cited four elements that constitute its values and have sketched a new and thrillingly meaningless corporate logo.
The four elements that BMW has used for its last 100 years are responsibility, trust, pioneering spirit and success. The first three are rather bland means and could apply to a lot of companies. Success is what happens if you apply the first three successfully, an end. Success is not what you do but what happens if you do the right thing correctly. These four have been turned into four interlocking triangles which together point vaguely to the right of the logo. As BMW looks forward they are also looking back. The BMW Classic Building has been opened and it’s full of old BMWs.
As with most concept cars this one will probably not really show the way forward but aims to show what it is thought the future will look like as of today. According to the BMW Blog , the main objective was to create a highly personalised car that is “geared to meet the driver’s every need.” They did not want to create an “anonymous” vehicle.
Despite that, the only thing about the car that is very BMW is the huge and probably redundant grille. The car, says BMW, is characterized by “coupe-type sportiness and the dynamic elegance” of a saloon. It’s 4.9 metres long with really big wheels. The i3 is more futuristic though it lacks the flexible skin that accommodates the turning wheels.
The BMW Vision Next 100 (in bold) is a roughly three-box form with enclosed wheels front and back. The last time I looked, saloons were being hammered by non-saloons. If BMW was being realistic about what they think cars will look like in a 100 years, they probably won’t have the dynamic elegance of a saloon. I feel like a person in 1916 being told about the future of the top hat.
Adrian van Hoydonk also gets a bit mixed up with the car’s design goals. “Technology is going to make significant advantages opening up fantastic new possibilities that will allow us to offer the driver even more assistance for an even more intense driving experience.” Logically, the extent to which the driver is helped affects the level of involvement inversely.
Automatic transmission reduces involvement and seventy years ago, automatic spark plug firing reduced involvement. Before that you adjusted the timing yourself. The introduction of automatic chokes reduced involvement too (though not by much). The more you dwell on BMW’s Vision Next 100 the more the future of cars physically looks pretty familiar and the less involving driving is going to be.
As I have said elsewhere, autonomous driving is not too dissimilar to sitting in your own private train, having a snooze and then obsessively checking your text messages on Instatwitterbook. Van Hooydonk also struggles when he declares that future interactions “between human, machine and surroundings should become seamless.” I am not sure how far this can go before it becomes akin to the seamless way my fridge keeps the cheese, milk and butter cool for me.
Van Hooydonk has gone back in time two decades as he declares that “driver well-being has become increasingly important.” I suppose this is always true; it has never become less important.
While he admits the driver will have nothing much to do they should feel as if the car has been designed for them (much like a sitting room, I guess). Something about spacious cabins, he notes. Well, that’s nice as BMW and others have been making cramped cabins for as long as I can remember.
That’s pretty bleak really. Self-driving cars that look like concept cars from 1998, with a bit more room inside, plus swarms of geometric shapes. I will have to cut and paste the bit about Alive Geometry directly here as I can’t paraphrase it without it becoming even more meaningless.
“Alive Geometry consists of almost 800 moving triangles which are set into the instrument panel and into certain areas of the side panels. They work in three dimensions, communicating very directly with the driver through their movements, which are more like gestures than two-dimensional depictions on a display. Even the slightest peripheral movement is perceptible to the driver. In combination with the Head-Up display, Alive Geometry uniquely fuses the analogue with the digital. The triangles work in much the same way as a flock of birds in controlled flight, their coordinated movements acting as signals that are easily comprehensible to those inside the car. Combined with the Head-Up display, they involve the driver in a form of precociousness communication, where an intuitive signal predicts an imminent real-time event.”
Super. I really wish they hadn’t indulged in this exercise. It’s nice to look a little forward but not too far. As John Maynard Keynes said, in the long term we’re all dead. BMWs future is post-driving. And in the long term I don’t think we’ll be driving around so much generally and anyone who does will be doing it because their car demands all their attention and effort. Otherwise you may as well take a taxi, bus or train.
Happy birthday BMW.