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BMW's Four Futuristic Concepts Will Blow Your Mind

By Sue Callaway
October 11, 2016

To celebrate 100 years of making “ultimate driving machines,” BMW Group decided a few years ago to create four concept vehicles that would simulate what the company’s brands—BMW, Rolls-Royce, Mini and BMW Motorrad—might look like in three to four decades. BMW rolled out the first concept, the sleek BMW Vision Next 100, in March in Munich. The next two—the stunning Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100 and the eye-catching Mini Vision Next 100—debuted in London in June. And now, the fourth and final—the BMW Motorrad Vision Vehicle, a sculptural futuristic motorcycle—debuts today in Santa Monica alongside its futuristic siblings. It is the first time all four will appear together. Fortune got an early sneak peek the night before—and the chance to speak with BMW chairman Harald Krueger and Adrian von Hooydonk, senior vice president BMW Group Design.

According to Krueger, all four concepts share characteristics key to the company going forward: all are electric, all are zero emissions and all are bristling with connectivity innovations. The BMW, Rolls and Mini are also fully autonomous.

From simulating materials not even invented yet using “4D printing” to augmented reality and mood-enhancing technologies, BMW’s four concepts preview a world that seems far, far down the road. But the company’s point is that given the rapid pace of technological innovations across industries, such visions of the future may be here sooner than you think. As van Hooydonk said, “Once you have an idea, you have a good chance of realizing it.”

BMW Vision Next 100

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 16: BMW Group unveiles Vision Next 100 concept BMW at the Roundhouse on June 16, 2016 in London, England. BMW Group unveiled three of their Vision Next 100 vehicles, Mini, Rolls Royce and BMW to celebrate their centenary year. With constant connectivity, digital intelligence and state-of-the-art technologies, the future BMW turns the driver into the 'Ultimate Driver'. The Vision Next 100 BMW Shape-shifts around corners to improve its aerodynamics and reduce emissions and uses camera and visibility technology to see through the fog or behind obstructed views. The vehicle knows everything about the driver and through continuous data sharing, becomes more and more intelligent with every drive. (Photo by Stephen Hardman/Getty Images for BMW)
Getty Images for BMW

This concept is a hybrid of sorts: in “Ease” mode, the car’s interface, called the Companion, controls driving. In Boost mode, the Companion not only allows the human to take the controls, but is capable of expanding a driver’s range of perception and enhancing their driving capabilities. The vehicle also has what BMW calls Alive Geometry—a term for both the analog dashboard made of up of 800 movable triangles and the flexible wheelhouse covers, made in 4D printing, that optimize aerodynamics.

Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100

The Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100 concept automobile, produced by Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW), sits on display during its unveiling in London, U.K., on Thursday, June 16, 2016. This year, the namesake marque will probably lose its sales leadership in luxury cars to Mercedes-Benz for the first time since 2005. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg via Getty Images

At nearly 20 feet in length, this two-seater concept visually dominates. Of course, Rolls has always specialized in making imposing, rare-air vehicles that owners often don’t drive themselves, so the British marque was an easy fit for autonomy.

This vehicle, which van Hooydonk says is a model year 2040 interpretation, is completely bespoke; a discerning Rolls customer can, in 30 years, likely dictate not only color and trim but also the number of seats and overall configuration of a car. Some highlights: aerodynamic covered-wheel pontoons; a roof and door system that open in unison to allow owners to enter and exit without bowing, and a red carpet of light that the vehicle emits on the ground.

Mini Vision Next 100

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 16: BMW Group unveiles Vision Next 100 concept Mini at the Roundhouse on June 16, 2016 in London, England. BMW Group unveiled three of their Vision Next 100 vehicles, Mini, Rolls Royce and BMW to celebrate their centenary year. The future MINI ensures the driving experience is hyper-personalised - responding to your mood, your style and your personality - so in a future where we are all sharing cars, the MINI can still be your MINI. The car has a smart "skin" that greets you as you approach and responds to your mood and an 'Inspire Me' button that recommends cool places to go based on the profile of the driver. (Photo by Stephen Hardman/Getty Images for BMW)
Getty Images for BMW

Mini envisions that its cars will be shared in the future. So this concept is designed to autonomously deliver itself to a user, who can program individual touches such as color, interior and exterior graphics, and system preferences—in other words, tech that allows you to make a shared vehicle feel like your own. At its literal heart, a translucent circular instrument, called the Cooperizer, communicates with the driver intuitively using color changes; a vehicular mood ring! There is also the Inspire Me function, which lets you select someone else’s preferred look and feel—so you can experience your Mini just as your favorite celebrities, artists and loved ones do.

BMW Motorrad Vision Vehicle

The self-balancing BMW Motorrad VISION NEXT 100 concept motorcycle is unveiled on the last of four international stops of the "Iconic Impulses" event, recognizing 100 years of BMW, on October 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. / AFP / DAVID MCNEW (Photo credit should read DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images)

The latest concept, a motorcycle that BMW has nicknamed the Great Escape, is comprised of a single, integrated triangular frame, which references the earliest two-wheel designs from the company. It sports next-gen innovations like frame-assisted steering and the most out-there of all—the ability to control the bike so that it never falls over, making helmets and protective gear unnecessary. If a motorcycle is one of the purest ways to experience the adrenaline of speed, imagine doing so without bulky gear.

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