Everyone always has something to say about BMW.
The Bavarian automaker has long had a knack for setting benchmarks with cars like the 3 Series and X5, but when vehicles change over time, BMW superfans don’t hold their tongues.
“Old cars were better.”
“This new grille is just too much.”
“I will never pay for subscription features in a car.”
Now, at CES 2023, a new BMW concept asks: what if the car had something to say too? And if a car could talk, how would it interact with its user?
This is the BMW i Vision Dee, which stands for “Digital Emotional Experience”. It’s one of BMW’s most radical — but, in some ways, plausible — concept cars in years. It’s a minimalist electric performance sedan that leans heavily on digital features like augmented reality and voice-activated virtual assistants. Think the Metaverse or Amazon Alexa, but in sports sedan form. The concept also offers the option of creating a driver avatar profile, which can even be projected onto the side window.
If a car could talk, how would it interact with its user?
More than that, the i Vision Dee’s color-changing grille is like a “face” with its own expressions in addition to the virtual voice. It’s a BMW that responds and can even have its own intakes. “My dad was an E30,” is something the car told me during a recent tech demo, and early social media promotions for the concept were reminiscent of the 80s talking car action show. . Knight Rider.
“The headlights and the closed BMW grille also form a commonality phygital (fusion of physical and digital) on a uniform surface, allowing the vehicle to produce different facial expressions,” the automaker said in a press release. “This means that the BMW i Vision Dee can speak to people and, at the same time, visually express moods such as joy, amazement or approval.”
Like 2021’s i Vision Circular, the i Vision Dee is just a concept car, meant to preview potentially upcoming designs and technologies that may eventually find their way onto dealer lots. At the same time, the design itself looks like something that could preview some future electric 3 Series or i4 of some sort.
Visually, the i Vision Dee almost looks like a cross between a Tesla Model 3 and one of BMW’s classic sports sedans, like a 2002 or an E30. The grille sweeps most of the front of the concept, and a rear light bar does the same on the trunk. The nearly featureless white bodywork contrasts sharply with the fussy designs of many current BMWs, while retaining signature features like the “Hofmeister crease” of the rear windows.
Although BMW does not directly confirm that this design is intended for production, it is fairly safe to assume that it will influence future cars. BMW concepts have a way of turning into reality – see the i8 supercar and i3 city car of the past decade. BMW is even calling it “another milestone on the road” to Neue Klasse, BMW’s next EV-specific car platform. This configuration is named after the “new class” of sports sedans and coupes that defined BMW’s image in the 1960s and 1970s.
While current BMWs tend to be built to offer a mix of internal combustion, hybrid or EV power – the electric i4 Series and the ICE-powered 4 Series Gran Coupe are essentially the same vehicle, for example – the next series of models is designed from grounded to electric for better range and better battery packaging.
BMW says the i Vision Dee also represents a significant evolution of the E Ink color-changing technology that debuted at last year’s CES and, as a result, can transform its exterior into 32 different colors – and more. nor a color. The concept’s body is divided into 240 E Ink segments, each of which can be individually controlled, BMW says. It’s the first time E-ink has been used on an entire car exterior, and BMW said the technology could be close to consumer-level commercialization.
Refreshingly, the i Vision Dee is a three-box sedan, not another blob-like crossover SUV concept. This in itself is a bold move by BMW and one that contradicts current trends; Sedan sales have been declining for years as the global market has shifted to crossovers and trucks.
For BMW, it’s proof that the sports sedan is still important to the company’s image and bottom line, BMW Design Director Domagoj Dukec told a press conference in Germany on last year.
“We want to show our customers that if the world changes, we will adapt, but we will certainly always be familiar,” Dukec said. “Everyone who works on my team, from different cultures and generations, loves the brand and knows its history. They don’t want it to go away. »
Dukec added: “It’s also BMW. When you talk about the main product…it’s series 3 and 5.”
The i Vision Dee brings good news to drivers who hate the explosion of touchscreens in cars lately: there are no screens here.
The concept’s stripped-down gray interior is even more minimalist than the exterior, with a sleek steering wheel, seats and what BMW calls the “Mixed Reality Slider”: a touchscreen that controls the amount of information the driver sees on advanced head-up display.
The i Vision Dee almost looks like a cross between a Tesla Model 3 and one of BMW’s classic sports sedans
There’s also bad news for drivers who hate screens: the whole windshield is now essentially a screen, mixing the functions of a dashboard with an infotainment system and adding augmented reality features.
Using the windshield to house displays is nothing new; many modern cars project vehicle speed, navigation, and other data onto it (and have had it in various forms since the 1980s). But this concept takes that idea to a whole new level.
Images projected on the screen include social media posts and AR displays in addition to vehicle diagnostics. Other windows are also dimmable should drivers and passengers wish to switch to full VR mode. Would that create a giant distraction? Maybe, but BMW says it’s safer than taking your eyes completely off the road to stare at a dash-mounted display.
“The full-width projection of the windshield allows information to be displayed over the largest possible surface – which only becomes recognizable as a display when activated,” BMW said in a statement. “[The car] visualizes how an advanced head-up display could also be used in the future for the display and operating concept.
A version of this system, presumably refined, will make its debut on Neue Klasse cars from 2025.
“A smart companion”, not just a car
But while many of the features previewed on the i Vision Dee certainly won’t be ready for prime time in 2023, they seem like a credible approach to where the auto industry is increasingly heading. digitally driven.
The entire windshield is now essentially a screen
“With the BMW i Vision Dee, we are showing what is possible when hardware and software merge. In this way, we are able to exploit the full potential of digitalization to turn the car into an intelligent companion,” said said Oliver Zipse, chairman of the board of directors of BMW, in a press release.
It’s cold comfort for diehards who want BMW to go back to the way things were, but they choose to perceive it. It will also not sit well with reviews of the technologies found in the i Vision Dee. After all, Amazon Alexa has done little more than set billions on fire in 2022, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to switch to the metaverse has been met with utter contempt. The question remains whether drivers even want some of the features of the i Vision Dee, especially the panoramic screens on the windshield or the talking virtual assistant.
Although it struggles with things like getting drivers to accept subscription features in cars, BMW says yes. The future won’t be high-revving straight-six engines and manual transmissions, so BMW must find a way to convince the die-hard faithful that “performance” can be defined by things like software speed, charging time and electrical autonomy. . The cars it produces in the next few years probably won’t be as ambitious as the i Vision Dee, but it shows that BMW is already thinking in that direction.