BMW marks 100th birthday with autonomous, zero-emission concept

BMW is now a century old. To celebrate, the brand has unveiled a concept car that emits nothing from its tailpipe and can drive itself.

The automaker hasn't said just how the Vision Next 100 concept manages to go emission-free, but it did talk a lot about the car's exotic materials and construction.

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For instance, the car's entire windshield is an augmented reality display.

In place of an instrument cluster, the car features 800 triangles embedded in the dashboard that are designed to communicate "directly with the driver through their movements, which are more like gestures than two-dimensional directions on a display."

The car adapts to its driver's behaviors via what BMW calls a "companion." The companion is designed to learn about its owner's driving habits and can apparently perform routine tasks and offer advice, although just how much of a concierge it is remains up for speculation.

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Carbon fiber and other composites take the place of traditional steel. Produced using new 4D printing, which builds on 3D by allowing the materials to change depending on conditions, the car's shape can adapt with the driver's movements like a flexible skin.

For instance, if the driver (or autonomous driver) turns the front wheels, the panels might shift to cover what would otherwise be an un-aerodynamic gap in the wheel wells. 

The Vision Next 100 is the first in what will become a series of concept cars for each of the company's brands, including Mini and Rolls-Royce.

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It might seem a bit unusual for a brand that bills itself as builders of the "ultimate driving machine" to build an autonomous car, but BMW says it is committed to moving in that direction. 

BMW plans to display the car next in Beijing on May 5, followed by London on June 16, and Los Angeles on October 11. 


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