BMW is preparing a raft of new technology that will enable its future models to react "intelligently" with local road conditions to allow greater fuel-efficiency and improve safety for both drivers and pedestrians.
This new philosophy is described by BMW as "Connected Drive meets Efficient Dynamics." The German car manufacturer expects to roll out the technology over the next few years in the new 2013 BMW 3 Series and 2012 6 Series.
Connected Drive is defined by BMW engineers as "info coming into the vehicle" and "info from the vehicle" being combined to make decisions about the way the car operates.
The information coming into the vehicle will be drawn from external sensors (such as the new 360-degree laser parking sensors, nose-mounted camera, light and rain sensors), from car-to-car communication and also from future interconnected traffic signage and other live information — such as traffic reports — downloaded by the car from the Internet.
All this information will be added to data being generated by the car itself, including the vehicle status, and 3-D information about the satellite-navigation route being followed. The new networking and intelligent drive systems are expected to be able to drive down the fuel consumption of future BMWs by as much as 15 percent in their own right.
Outside of fuel saving, BMW engineers have also outlined plans to allow the car of the future to communicate with the owner's own home media and entertainment systems, as well as use smartphone apps for "micro-navigation." The idea behind such apps will be, for example, helping the driver to find an airport check-in desk once he parks his car.
Here's a rundown of the electronic systems you're likely to see in the next generation of BMWs.
AMULETT detection: The car will be able to detect any children carrying a transponder, so they can be avoided should they run into the road from behind parked vehicles.
Autopark: Drivers will be able to squeeze their car into a tight parking space by lining up the car, getting out and using the key to remotely drive it into the space. Although the system could cost well under $1,300 as an option, it is currently illegal in most parts of the world.
Collision avoidance: Lateral collision avoidance uses 360-degree laser sensors to automatically tweak the steering to prevent an accident in a narrow lane.
E-mail on the move: Direct connection to an e-mail server, with messages displayed on the dash screen. Voice synthesis reads them out, while voice control allows the driver to reply.
Gearbox "sail" mode: BMW has revealed a new version of the eight-speed autobox equipped with a Sail mode. If the driver lifts off the accelerator and doesn't brake, the drivetrain switches into neutral and disconnects.
iDrive: On the next 3 Series and 6 Series initially, there will be an updated iDrive controller with an integrated touch panel on the top of the rotary knob.
ILENA intelligent sat-nav: This system will suggest three different navigated routes — Standard, Eco or Quick — with previous information about the driver's style being used to plot the eco one. It can also be used with future hybrid BMWs, to calculate — via 3-D mapping — the most efficient route for the drivetrain.
Micropause apps: Communication with traffic lights will allow the car to know how long it will be stationary; news flashes or games could be brought up on the TFT screen.
Mobility assistant app: This application can use public transport information to advise a driver that it is quicker to use either a bus or a train for a particular journey. It could also receive live updates on parking lot space availability and even bike rental information, such as that already offered for smartphones by London's cycle rental scheme.
More efficient hybrids: Future plug-in versions of BMW hybrids could use preselected sat-nav routes and weather and traffic information to set an ideal battery charge and even pre-warm the engine for maximum efficiency.
Smart key: BMW keys will act like swipe cards, able to store small amounts of credit and hold codes that will work as train tickets or open pre-booked hotel rooms.
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