Future of motoring on display at Geneva

BMW has revealed its vision of the future of motoring ahead of the Geneva Motor Show next month, giving consumers a tangible example of a very significant shift happening in the automotive industry.

The German automaker will debut a two-seater roadster named the BMW Vision ConnectedDrive study, which for once isn't remarkable for what's under the hood, but for what's on the screen.

It's BMW's interpretation of how cars will work in the future, and in contrast to some of the wackier concepts often seen at trade shows, there's good reason to believe that the vision represented by this Vision isn't that far off.

Most noticeable is the widescreen heads-up display, a feature already present on cars from the likes of Saab, Audi and BMW, but likely to play a significantly larger role in the future and were featured prominently at the recent CES technology show in Las Vegas.

The screen on the Vision ConnectedDrive study is a widescreen, covering information from speed to navigation instructions and also boasting augmented reality technology - allowing your car to guide you around a car park, for instance, with an overlay of which spaces are free.

Instead of wingmirrors, the study features aerials - perhaps not practically necessary any more but an interesting hint at technology under development from BMW and others such as Ford that will allow vehicles to communicate wirelessly.

Once all vehicles are outfitted with such transmitters, they should be able to automatically prevent a collision, although to be on the safe side the Vision ConnectedDrive concept also includes front and rear cameras capable of recognizing people.

Entertainment-wise, BMW appears to be embracing the app-led vision of General Motors, Ford and Toyota, although it's focusing on making the vehicle central to the connection between passenger and driver - instead of talking, the passengers of the future will be "swiping" a screen to pass information such as music choices and timetables to the driver which is displayed at red lights.

Although many of the features on the ConnectedDrive Vision study may be years, or even decades, away, it's striking that many of the communication and infotainment scenarios envisioned by BMW in its high-tech Geneva display now seem conceivable, in a way that five years ago they would not have been.

With Ford CEO Alan Mulally addressing the CeBIT technology conference just days before the Geneva Motor Show begins, change seems to be sweeping through the auto industry faster than ever before.

The Geneva Motor Show is open to the public March 3-13 in Geneva, Switzerland.


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