BMW is looking into the future of infotainment, car style and heads-up displays with its new i Vision Dee concept car.
The automaker revealed the i Vision Dee at CES 2023 to showcase its futuristic tech. It’s exciting stuff, and it will be interesting to see how, and if, BMW includes all of the technologies in its cars over the next few years. The huge heads-up display promises the future, and it’s hard not to love a car that can cycle through 32 different colours. There’s more to it than that, including new infotainment updates and core changes to how BMW thinks of its cars as technology.
The ‘Dee’ in the concept car’s name stands for ‘Digital Emotional Experience,’ and the company is taking great lengths to truly present the car as something more personal than in the past.
The customization of the exterior, the brave choice to develop its infotainment stack instead of opting to work with Apple and Google, and finally, a new way for that infotainment to be displayed with a windshield-sized heads-up display. This concept showcases BMW’s key moves going forward and paints a clearer picture of how luxury automakers are adapting to connected cars.
A car with personality
The colour-changing tech uses E-ink, which can shift between 32 colours, unlike last year’s model, which could only switch between black and white. The new version has 240 E-ink panels, so it can even become a gradient from one end to the other. This is the part that likely won’t come to consumer cars any time soon, but it’s eye-catching and raises some fun ideas about the future of how a car can change to suit its driver.
The car even has a welcome scenario that can be personalized with graphics, lights and sound effects to make it feel like it belongs to the driver. The i Vision Dee’s headlights and grill also appear to be one unit, and BMW says that in conjunction, the two parts of the car can display expressions giving the vehicle a face.
It can even project an image of the driver’s avatar on the window as you walk up to personalize the experience further. It’s all very Need for Speed-like. Considering the cost of E-ink, this is likely not something anyone will be able to own, but it’s a remarkable achievement to curve a panel around the body of a car this way, and it’s mesmerizing to watch it change colours.
The new BMW OS 9
While it’s unclear if the i Vision Dee is running any actual BMW infotainment until I get to sit in it, BMW shared a lot about its new OS update for 2023 at CES. The German automaker is looking to expand its infotainment section by swapping out its Linux backbone for open-source Android. This means the company will get more access to apps and better background task management, but to be clear, it isn’t adopting the Google Automotive Services that GM and Volvo have begun to use.
This new system looks very similar to the BMW OS 8 from the iX and other newer BMWs, but there are a few key changes, like new climate controls and a redesigned central screen to bring media controls closer to the driver and a larger map for turn-by-turn nav. This system doesn’t look completely fleshed out, with the now-playing widget missing play/pause controls, but other perks like 3D maps in navigation help modernize BMW OS.
It’s a step in the right direction, but the software still doesn’t seem to have the polish of a modern smartphone OS. However, like modern smartphones, it’s built to make it easy for BMW to update it. Enough time and commitment can lead to a much smoother operating system in a few years.
This custom work gives BMW a lead in features, but I worry Google and Apple will catch up to the bespoke automaker, tieing cars and smartphones more closely together. I’m not sure if this is super good for consumers moving forward, but it seems like the easiest option for many people.
It’s also worth noting that since this is open-source Android, it’s unlikely that it has Google Play services, which means no Google Maps, YouTube Music, etc. The company is pulling apps from the Aptoid app store, and its website claims that OEMs like BMW have the final say over what apps make it onto the store in its cars. This should allow for a good amount of podcasting and music streaming apps, but it won’t do much to align your Google account on your phone with your car.
A full windshield heads-up display
One area of the car that I haven’t gotten to go fully hands-on with yet is the new full windshield heads-up display. Stay tuned on Friday, January 6th, for an impression of that once I spend more time with the concept car.
The car has five levels of augmented reality, allowing drivers to see music playing, directions, speed, incoming calls and more if they choose, or they can dial it back to be just driving-related information. You can also disable it if you want a more analogue experience or take it to the maximum and drive around in an augmented reality experience.
That said, the most intriguing thing is that it’s the part of the car that BMW has committed to bringing aspects of the large heads-up display to its future Neue Klasse vehicles in 2025. This likely includes the large size and some more realistic elements, like the ability to choose how much stuff you want to display on the screen at once. If I had to guess, what might get scaled back in this department would be the virtual reality experience.