Cars & Cigars

#BMW just unveiled a new electric SUV concept

BMW is planning to launch 25 new electrified vehicles — at least a dozen fully electric — by 2025. One of them, slated for 2021, will be based on the Vision iNext concept BMW has been teasing in recent weeks. As the car flew around the world on a Lufthansa cargo jet, we had the chance to climb aboard to see it in person at JFK Airport in New York. Now, we can pass along the images, and tell you what we learned about the iNext and BMW’s electric future on board that Boeing 777F.

BMW unveiled an electric concept SUV, the Vision iNEXT, on Saturday. The concept shows some of the technology the company may use in the future. A production vehicle based on the concept is planned for 2021, it represents just one of the building blocks to BMW’s EV future, according to BMW CEO Harald Krüger. “The iNEXT project will provide our building blocks for the future, from which the entire company and all of its brands are set to benefit.”

bmw vision inext

The concept includes autonomous driving technology, voice control, a projector that can show images or videos on objects held by passengers, and a touch control feature that allows drivers and passengers to change vehicle settings by drawing on their seats with their fingers.

The Vision iNext includes some interesting technology. You wouldn’t know by looking at it, but integrated into the Jacquard weave of the rear seating has integrated touch control surfaces and LED lighting. You can trace certain gestures to control certain functions. Draw a musical note — and light trails behind your finger to complete the picture — in order to turn the music on. Swipe in either direction to skip through your playlist, and use pinch gestures to control volume. Interestingly, the wood on the center console offers the same functionality, lighting included.

bmw vision inext
The second major “Shy Tech” feature, which is the language BMW uses to describe technology that hides out of sight until you use it is the Intelligent Beam. A projector over the rear seat can turn any surface, like a black piece of paper, into an interactive screen. You could project images or video onto it, and control it with gestures or touch. The image follows whatever object you’re holding, so you don’t have to hold perfectly still for it to work.

Here’s what the Vision iNEXT looks like:

bmw vision inext

We can’t imagine all of the technology showcased in the Vision iNext concept making its way to production — and neither can BMW. Regulators need to work out the autonomous driving landscape before that can go full force. The Intelligent Beam would need some serious refinement (not to mention a market demand case) before it would be ready for primetime. We’re not sure how much it would cost to make large swaths of your car’s interior function as touch controls.