With its hybrid powertrain, carbon chassis and spaceship-styling, BMW's i8 isn't exactly a dinosaur. But that hasn't stopped Munich's engineers from pushing the envelope at CES. The iVision Concept takes the i8 Concept Spyder's dramatic body and packs it full of innovative driver-display tech designed to make it easy for drivers to stay connected with the outside world, without being overwhelmed with information.
Central to the iVision's interface are three separate displays. The first is an instrument cluster in front of the driver, which uses a three-dimensional display to prioritize information. As well as giving the usual info about speed, range and odometer, the display is able to alert drivers to cars farther up the road that aren't in their field of view.
Whereas most cars use their heads-up display as a supplementary way of telling the driver how many "G" they're pulling in the bends, or as a second speedo, the iVision Concept uses it as the main way to let drivers know how fast they're going, what the speed limit is, or what the next turn is from the sat nav. It can also give drivers their ideal braking points or racing line – similar to an idea Jaguar floated with its virtual windscreen.
This means key information is always in the driver's line of sight, making sure their eyes stay on the road for longer.
The most dramatic piece of technology in the iVision's interior is the massive monitor sitting in the middle of the dashboard. Measuring up at 21 inches diagonally, the screen is just 11 cm (4.3 in) high, which BMW says makes the dashboard no higher than the standard i8's.
When the driver sits down in the car, the panoramic screen automatically connects to phones, watches or any other "smart" piece of technology. BMW says the screen could then be utilized differently depending on how the car is being used, which means voice calls could become video calls when the driver switches between manual and autonomous drive modes. The screen also offers up the ability to access the web.
As is the case in the new 7 Series, the iVision Concept uses gesture control combined with a smart menu system designed to cut down on the number of steps involved in changing the radio station, or choosing different music. Voice control is also included, although if the system is anything like most current voice recognition systems, you're better off sticking with gesture control.
So, how do BMW's engineers plan on avoiding information overload? It's all down to how you're using the wheel. When the driver is "active" at the steering wheel, less information is displayed on the widescreen display in the middle to minimize the risk of distractions. When the drive switch is flicked across to auto mode, the wheel turns blue and the full range of functions on the central screen are made available.
This combination of screens and displays is also useful when things don't go to plan in fully autonomous driving. If something goes wrong, or the car isn't able to respond effectively to a situation, all three displays put their efforts to grabbing the driver's attention and making them take control again.
And what about the car itself, we hear you ask? Well it looks very similar to the i8 Concept Spyder, albeit without doors so that showgoers can get a good look at the inside of the car. Beyond that, there's no details about an engine or transmission – all we can say is the orange and black paint job looks good, and the CFRP passenger cell promises a stiff, sharp handling package with or without a roof.
Stay tuned for all the latest from CES, where Gizmag is on the ground covering the action.