BMW Imagines the Car of the Future, and It’s One Hell of a Sweet Ride

Who needs friends with a co-pilot like this?

Move over, KITT. This concept car from BMW makes you look like a broken-down jalopy.

Behold, an AI-powered wheeled wonder straight out of William Gibson's wet dreams (or maybe his nightmares). In fact, BMW's Vision Next concept vehicle isn't so much a car as a high-tech traveling companion, attuned to owners' needs and desires, designed to provide maximum comfort and highly personalized rides. 

"The driver is in constant communication with the vehicle in an intuitive and natural way," says BMW. "At the same time, the vehicle expands the driver's range of perception and transforms him or her into the 'Ultimate Driver.' " 

After a few rides, the dashboard AI—which resembles an outsized diamond and really is named "Companion"—gets to know its operator, enabling it "to always provide the right recommendations to meet personal mobility preferences, both during driving and outside the vehicle," the automaker says. (For example, it might remember your favorite routes and stops along the way, or the ideal cabin temperature.)

With a car like that, who needs friends? Love ya, metal buddy!

Carbon fiber was used for the side panels, with interior furnishings made of recycled or renewable materials.

Oh, the car is a shape-shifter, too—not on the order of Optimus Prime, but when users toggle between self-driving ("Ease") and manual ("Boost") modes, physical changes take place in the cabin.

In Ease mode, the steering wheel and control console retract, the seats turn toward each other (creating a roomy "lounge" effect), and the windscreen allows web browsing and movie viewing. When Boost is selected, driving line, steering angle and speed are projected on the display. (Other drivers will know which mode you're in, based on different colors displayed through the headlights, tail lights and grille.)

BMW also fitted the Vision Next with something called "Alive Geometry," a system of 800 interactive triangles that facilitate visual communication and extra closeness between the car and its passengers. For example, in Boost mode, the triangle shapes change color on the dash to indicate danger ahead. 

Of course, the sleek, shiny, hyper-aerodynamic vehicle looks like the last word in James Bond cars. Alas, there are no ejector seats or hidden machine guns. Here's hoping those come standard on at least one of the three additional futuristic models BMW will be previewing later this year.

BMW's concept vehicle follows six months after Mercedes-Benz debuted its own concept car, which morphs while in movement.

As for how these amazing machines would be advertised in 2036, well, can't you just picture them roaring through sun-kissed snow, or traversing sun-soaked beaches as bikini babes frolic in the surf? Or perhaps a night ride among shimmering skyscraper-canyons with '80s tunes blaring on the soundtrack? How about racing along sky-high mountain roads while majestic whitecaps break far below?

Sorry, Companion. Some things never change.

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.